Merchant, Spartans have sights set on Wolverines

Who doesn’t love a good in-state rivalry?

After a 77-60 home victory against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday, the Spartans will hit the road to take on their arch-nemesis in the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan State has accumulated a better record than the Wolverines thus far, currently sitting at 14-5 (4-4 Big Ten), but Michigan is not far behind at 12-8 (3-5 Big Ten). Respectively, the clubs sit at eight and 10 in the exceptionally tight conference standings.

Though the Spartans will enter Ann Arbor coming off a sizeable victory, the environment will not be an easy one to play in. The Wolverines boast an undefeated 8-0 record at home this season, including impressive close wins over Ohio State and Northwestern, the latter coming in overtime. To add to the potential worries, all five of the Spartans’ losses have come on the road.

“I know Michigan fans are rabid and intense,” Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant said of the road environment. “They’re aggressive. They want their team to win.”

She’s exactly right. This rivalry, across all sports, needs no introduction. There’s no other way to put it… these two schools, and these two teams, hate each other (in case you haven’t heard). The disdain can even be overwhelming at times.

“There’s no inbetween. There’s us and them. You’re a Spartan or you’re a Wolverine,” Merchant said of the rivalry. “It’s a really unique and interesting rivalry because we’re all so fired up. And these are lifelong memories.”

Michigan State junior combo guard Taryn McCutcheon seemed to agree with her coach.

“We’re always ready to play them (Michigan). We don’t lose to them,” she said with a smirk. “It’s that other school and we just don’t lose to them. So mentally, going into the game, everybody’s a little bit more ready and hyped up to play.”

The Spartans have one of the most potent offenses in the country, currently ranked No. 23 with 79.6 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent on the season (No. 18). On the other hand, the Wolverines are one of the best rebounding teams, with a margin of nearly +10 boards per game. This one could very well come down to the wire.

“I don’t look at it as just another game, because it’s not. It’s another game with a lot of meaning behind it, whether we’re at home or away.” Merchant stated.

If you’re looking for a great game with more at stake than just a win, tune in to Big Ten Network this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. The Wolverines will look to stay perfect at home while the Spartans hunt for a fifth conference win.