The Spartans Fall Flat to the Fighting Illini


That is how Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant described the game against Illinois. The Spartans suffered their second conference loss, 61-51, against Illinois.

“From the get-go, from warm-ups, it just was evident that there just wasn’t a lot of effort and passion going on right there,” Merchant said.

The team’s leading scorer of the season, forward Annalise Pickrel, had nine points, 10 rebounds and four turnovers.

Redshirt freshman Aerial Powers, usually a top scorer and rebounder, had two points, six rebounds and three turnovers.

Tori Jankoska was 2-9 from behind the arc and finished the game with 12 points and two rebounds.

Merchant said it bothered her to see so many players out there that just are not aggressive and excited.

“From vets to freshmen, it didn’t matter. It felt like I was trying to coach effort out there, and aggressiveness, and leadership and willing them to do their jobs and it just was so frustrating,” Merchant said. “One of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached in.”

Guard Kiana Johnson has shot 2-20 from the field in the last two games. She had four points, six assists and six turnovers against Illinois.

According to Merchant, Johnson is their biggest problem.

“It’s killing us and she’s turning the ball over,” Merchant said. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we got to get that kid right. She’s got to get more engaged, more enthusiastic, more performance-based, more mentally tough, because she’s the point guard of your team. She’s very uninspired right now.”

Forward Becca Mills scored the first seven points of the game, but lost the energy after getting into foul trouble. She led the team with 17 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

“We need to work on our defense. They killed us tonight on the dribble-drive and that’s not good enough to win games, how we played. We need to make sure we tighten it up,” Mills said.

Coach Merchant said this is the time that the grind begins.

“It’s the difference between being a contender or pretender. Which one is it?”

MSU will head to Columbus, Ohio on Sunday to face the Ohio State Buckeyes. Tip-off is set for 12:30 p.m.

Sierra Williams is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: Nubia Buckingham/Impact Sports