Captain Pickrel

The Spartans experienced their first conference loss of the season against the Penn State Lady Lions on Sunday, 66-54. Captain Annalise Pickrel said it was a wake up call.

“The Big Ten is not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” Pickrel said.

“I think we were sitting a little high from the last couple games, so this is sort of a wake-up as to how the Big Ten really is.”

The Spartans won the first half, 34-27, but could not hold on in the second half. They were outscored 39-20. Coach Suzy Merchant said the air went out of the bag.

“We stopped crashing, stopped hustling, we just kind of stood around for a little bit and they were an aggressive team and that’s why they won the second half,” Merchant said.

Pickrel said she needs to focus on crashing the boards more.

“I felt like I sat back and watched this game,” Pickrel added.

“As far as offensive rebounds and stuff, I was like, backing up. I was supposed to be one of the rebounders in the game. That’s something that I kind of had trouble with the whole season.”

She led the Spartans with 17 points, six rebounds, one assist and one block. Only one of those rebounds was offensive.

“I just have so much confidence that our shooters are going to make it so I’m already gone,” Pickrel said.

Annalise Pickrel is MSU’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game and also their second-leading rebounder, grabbing 7.1 boards per game.

In practice, Pickrel said she works on shooting and driving to the basket the most.

“I work on my shot a lot and lately I’ve been working on driving, getting to the rim because I’ve kind of just been one-dimensional this year, shooting and stuff,” Pickrel said. “So coach has really been helping me put a little variety in my game.”

According to Pickrel, one of her jobs as team captain is to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“During practice I try to focus on boxing out and just kind of talking to everyone through the defense and making sure that everyone is on the same page – the energy level,” Pickrel said. “I feel like that’s sort of my job. I make sure everyone is up to par with their intensity.”

Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State now all share the No. 1 spot in Big Ten standings. Each team is 4-1 in conference play.

“Now that our records are similar with some of the other teams, it’s going to be really important to bring more energy than the other team, and more focus and just nastiness to the court, both halves, from here on out.”

MSU will host Illinois at the Breslin Center on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Sierra Williams is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: Nubia Buckingham/Impact Sports