After pushing through a sluggish start, the Spartans defeated Rice 81-68 Saturday night The Spartans struggled in the first half after forward Annalise Pickrel was taken out of the game for picking up two early fouls. Shortly after Pickrel left the court, center Madison Williams made an appearance after missing all but three games in her three years at Michigan State due to an ACL injury.
“They felt like she was ready,” coach Suzy Merchant said regarding Williams’ return. “You can obviously see why I’ve been so frustrated by not having Madison Williams for the last three years. She’s very, very effective.”
Coach Merchant said the doctor’s orders were for Williams to play only one minute in each half. Williams had six points, two rebounds, one block and one steal in five minutes.
“It was good, it felt pretty natural. It was very surreal still,” Williams said. “I was in a game. That’s never happened.”
Junior Becca Mills average 8.3 points a game, but Saturday she led the Spartans with 20 points and six rebounds.
“I am a lot more comfortable with my back against the basket this year than I was last year, and confident,” said Mills.
Kiana Johnson followed with 15 points and Pickrel added 14.
Merchant and her team are looking forward to Williams having a major role in the rotation later in the season.
“I was too scared to look at the crowd. I heard them, and just hearing everyone behind me was just such an incredible feeling,” Williams said. “I was trying not to cry. It was just an awesome feeling and such a weight off.”
The Spartan’s next game will be in Philadelphia against Temple on Tuesday. Tip off will be at 7 p.m.
Sierra Williams is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Nubia Buckingham