March 8, 2013
Michigan State Quotes
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could start with an opening statement.
COACH MERCHANT: I think, there's a lot of relief. When you have to, one, you have to play someone three times, but then that third for us is our in state rival, the tension is obviously high. I'm sure high on their bench, high on our bench.
So coming into that game, there's certainly just added pressure that potentially the other teams wouldn't have felt. I mean, certainly they want to win games and they want to perform well. I didn't see too many in state rivals the way Michigan and Michigan State is. So it made for a unique and interesting opening to the Big Ten Women's Tournament for the Spartans.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Klarissa, obviously one of your better games in a while. You talk about your feelings regarding Michigan a lot. Was it just playing Michigan? Was it the post season? What was it that sparked you tonight?
KLARISSA BELL: I would say I was really focused coming into this game. Our team's really energetic. Even leaving the hotel, we just had like a lot of energy. I think that kind of helped. And we're playing against our rival school, so that definitely helps as well.
Q. Klarissa, anything specifically defensive wise you did differently this time?
KLARISSA BELL: The last time against Michigan, I just had a lot of redemption, let's say that. Definitely just wanted to D up Kate Thompson the way I knew that I could. I just didn't do it as well as I could the last time, so this time I definitely wanted to do that. I think that showed.
Q. Klarissa or Jasmine, there's a stretch they pulled within two there early in the second half. And you guys mount a 14 1 run to hold them without a field goal for nearly ten minutes. What was key for you guys then?
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, just getting back to what we were doing to get us to that point before they cut it down, you know, whether that was going we went possessions without scoring and fouled a couple of times on the defensive end to kind of get them back in it.
I don't know, just getting back to better offensive execution and defensive rebounding.
Q. Jasmine, could you talk about your defensive efforts this time and how it compared to last time?
JASMINE THOMAS: I mean, it's kind of similar to Klarissa. You kind of just felt that letdown the last game so you wanted to go back out there and kind of prove yourself a little bit.
Q. Jasmine, how does it feel to know you won't end your career with a loss against Michigan?
JASMINE THOMAS: Oh, I'm more than happy. I mean, I thought it was the end when we lost to them by that one point, but to get them again, it was a good feeling.
Q. Klarissa, offensively you kind of lit it up tonight. Were you more aggressive looking for the shots this time?
KLARISSA BELL: Yes, I would say I was more aggressive. And I just wasn't really thinking on offense, just catching the ball and shooting it or driving to the rim. Trying to avoid Jenny Ryan down there, trying to take a charge, because she's infamous for her charges.
So just trying to attack when I could, and my teammates hit me when I was open. So I appreciate that. And I just knocked down the shots.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, could you talk about Klarissa's performance and how pleased were you on both ends of the floor? Obviously the 20 points, and then I don't believe Kate Thompson hit a 3 pointer. I think she hit the one at the end, maybe one at the end.
COACH MERCHANT: Well, that was she's very, very difficult to guard, and I think you watch a lot of film and how people play her, there's a lot of different ways you can do it.
And I've always just believed that if you have someone that can chase the tail and be as quick and get there on the catch, that's your best bet, because when you start getting into switches, then they slip. They're really good at slipping and cutting to the rim. We had a couple of situations, I think you saw that tonight, where maybe we weren't as defined just worrying about her. And I think they play off of that.
So the longer that Klarissa could evade screens and chase the tail, and where the tail goes there's no screen. That's simple as can be. So that was really our focus tonight. I thought she did a nice job at that.
A little bit different than the last time we played them. I thought she was late to the party, stepped slow. She'd be three or four feet behind the kid coming underneath on their baseline, sloppy screens coming that way. You get six inches behind that kid, and she can really do some damage.
So I was very pleased with her tenacity. It's not an easy thing to guard someone that gets flared, double staggered, screened, rescreened for 40 straight minutes.
And actually I think it's really impressive to watch her compete for, what, 31 games basically, and as an offensive player, always knowing you have to cut, move, flare, screen, rescreen. There's a lot on you to make something happen and you don't even have the ball in your hands yet.
So it's tough. And I'm just glad we have to guard it a couple times a year.
Q. How about that stretch when Jasmine Hines came in and how important was that?
COACH MERCHANT: It was. She really needed a confidence boost, too. She can do some things for us. I think sometimes she gets in her own way as players go through those stages and seasons where they overthink or overtry instead of just having the confidence in your ability to get things done.
So I was pleased with her. I think we had been watching some film with her, I know coach Marcus [Simons] spent some time with her and went back and showed her the successful things she'd done prior instead of just, hey, here you didn't pin and seal; and here, you should have made this shot here; here they didn't follow you, here they fronted you.
All the things you try to teach them to get better, sometimes it's good just to go back and show them the good things they did.
And I think that gave her some pep in her step and got a little bit of her confidence back. I noticed that tonight she stepped up to the free throw line as well with some confidence, and sometimes that can be a little bit of a demon for her at times.
Q. Piggybacking off that. You said Sunday, kind of your inside play would be an area of concern, and one area you wanted to improve. Just talk about Becca [Mills] as well, too. And the second part, too, what's the status of Akyah [Taylor]?
COACH MERCHANT: It was great to see. Those are two very different five men, and most of Becca's stuff comes from face up and outside shots and Jasmine Hines, as you know, is mostly power.
But to see those kids come out and go 8 for 12 combined was really something positive. Prior to most of the season, together they were 20 points and 10 rebounds. Depending on how much each played, you could count on those two kids combined to get you about 20 points and about 10 rebounds. And they weren't far from it tonight. It's a really nice combination and a unique one.
I don't know about Akyah. They took her to the hospital. She got rocked pretty good in the eye, and it sounded like she needed to go to the hospital. I didn't see her come off the floor. So I couldn't comment on, I didn't even know it was her eye. I thought she might have had a concussion and got knocked out. But sounded like Jasmine came down on her eye.
Q. How important within the scheme the first time you guys played in the second half, you got the seven over that gave you the lead, 16 point lead. In this one you had a 14 1 run. How important was it to define that compared to the middle game in your series?
COACH MERCHANT: The one thing we were up I said to the girls we were up for in Ann Arbor at halftime, and we came out and we just were a little bit flat. And they came out a little more inspired and they ran some high post isolation action that got them a couple easy buckets and one on one, and then the next thing you know, our four point lead, we're down one.
So we talked about that. And I just said we need to set the tone when we come out. And we need to keep the foot on the gas a little bit here, because they're a team that can get it going if you have a let up.
So for us, we really did talk about having strong four minute media segments, take a break. All right, what did we do well, what did we not do well, and what can we do better. And then challenge them the next four minutes.
So we tried to keep it smaller type focuses because the one thing I think when you coach in rival games, it's natural, the first thing out of a Spartans mouth is, "we have to beat Michigan." And the first thing out of a Wolverine mouth is, "we have to beat Michigan State," maybe Ohio State, too, I guess on their side.
But you think everything in outcomes, and you forget about you gotta play the moment. It doesn't matter the outcome. Don't worry about winning or losing at that time. Let's, for us, let's worry about the possession we're in offensively or defensively.
So the mindset that we had going into it, that's what I kept talking to them about. It's really to make those runs happen, to do a better job this time than we did last time, we had to keep the outcome out of our minds and let's just worry about the possession we're in.
Sounds simple, but I think in rival situations, everyone I talked to, every text I got was, "beat the Wolverines," which is great. But I'm sure every player got that, too.
We just want to have a really good offensive possession and then a really good defensive possession and another good offensive.
You can get away from yourself, and I think you can put the cart before the horse sometimes if you think in that mindset.
Q. From an offensive standpoint, was this sort of the game you were hoping for from Klarissa for a while? You talked about it all year about her being aggressive and not being aggressive. Sort of on that same note, how nice was it to have a game like that in the first game of the postseason from her?
COACH MERCHANT: I thought it was really nice. I thought sometimes Klarissa, she can get in her own way sometimes. She has so much talent, but then she can overthink sometimes.
And I think coming into this game, knowing that the most important gift she could give our team was the defensive side of the ball, and that's where she really wanted a redemption.
I thought the first time we played them, Kate Thompson had 11 points in the first seven minutes of the game. And she was just kind of rattled from that, although she did play well offensively for us down there.
So to be able to put a little more focus on the defensive side of the ball and then just keep that aggressiveness, carrying it over on to the offensive side was something that we need to see from her.
I just think sometimes she can doubt herself a little bit, and there's no reason for that. She can shoot threes. She can take it off the bounce. She can get to the rim. She's a good passer. She's a great defender, a good rebounder. She can post up a little bit. There's not a whole lot she can't do.
So sometimes it's good to see her just let loose a little bit and have some fun out there. And that's what I saw in her. She was just as aggressive as I've seen her this season.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Kim Barnes Arico and student athletes Nya Jordan and Rachel Sheffer.
COACH BARNES ARICO: I thought Michigan State played better than we did tonight. They were deserving to win the game. They were able to score and really limited our scoring opportunities.
So I thought they were better than us tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Rachel, what did you see different in them tonight than last time?
RACHEL SHEFFER: I think they just attacked us defensively. We really couldn't come together defensively, and we couldn't carry over with defensive stops to our offense and nothing really was going for us tonight.
Q. In the second half, similar to the first game this year, second half a big run by them, or at least in some part of the second half. What really made that happen? You played in East Lansing, they opened up with a 7 0 run, start the second half to expand their lead to 16. In this game, take that 14 0 run, push to all the way it to a 17 point lead. What do you think caused that?
NYA JORDAN: They scored a lot of transition points. We had a hard time locating in transition, and I think that's what started it off.
Also, like Rachel [Sheffer] said, we struggled on defense and they were able to score.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Obviously when you took the job, you knew of early on you found out about the history with Michigan State, at least in recent years. After this season, do you feel like this is going to be a very a much more heated rivalry as far as on the court from here on out, as far as you see it?
COACH BARNES ARICO: I hope so. I've always heard about Michigan State, and I've watched them play for years and years, because traditionally they've had great teams. So they've always been known as a really good and established program.
And obviously, when I came to Michigan, I knew that would be our in state rival and a big rivalry for our kids as well as our universities.
They have a great program, a program that we aspire to be. This year, our seniors were able to come away with a victory at home. We played really well against them. And hopefully, my goal is obviously to get our program to be a national contender year in, year out. So that would be on the level of a Michigan State program.
Q. How do you feel about your team right now, 21 wins, looking for the NCAA Tournament?
COACH BARNES ARICO: If you asked me 24 hours ago, I thought we played exceptionally well. And if you ask me today, I thought we struggled a little bit. I think most teams this point of the year, a lot depends on who you play and when you play them.
And obviously, Michigan State did a great job against us today, but I feel like we've got a really good team and we've had a pretty good year. And we could do a good job in the NCAA Tournament. We could catch somebody off guard and we got a lot of different weapons, and when we were playing well, I think we could beat a lot of good people.
Michigan State had a third shot at us, and they were fired up about it. So it was a tough matchup for us, and I thought they played pretty well tonight.
Q. Did you think your offensive struggles compared to your defensive struggles in the second half, too?
COACH BARNES ARICO: Yeah, I mean, you tell a kid don't worry about what happening on offense, just get stops on defense, and you hope that they buy into that.
But I think when you can't score, you can't score, you can't score, it's like you watch football teams play, if their defense is out there the whole time, you really feel like they have no shot. I felt like our defense got worn down, especially when we couldn't score, for sure.
Q. You mentioned this is your third time playing [Michigan] State, how do you feel about going into a tournament where you'll probably be playing someone or someone's going to be looking at you for the first time?
COACH BARNES ARICO: I'm excited about that, actually. I think [Michigan] State, obviously, did a tremendous job on Kate [Thompson], as have most of the teams in our league. I think they've done a great job on Jenny [Ryan], too, who had an unbelievable game against them last time.
So for me, from a coaching standpoint, it's exciting when you get to play some new competition and people who haven't seen your kids play and really only watch it on film. And sometimes film doesn't really do you justice.
So I'm excited about the opportunity to play new people in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. What can you say about [Klarissa] Bell's defense on [Kate] Thompson? Seemed like for the longest, she might not get a three pointer there, which is obviously uncharacteristic?
COACH BARNES ARICO: I thought Bell's offense was unbelievable tonight. And her defense was great, too. But she came out of the gates and hurt us offensively. I think she might have had their first 10 points. So we expected her to do a great job defensively. She did a really good job defensively against Kate the last couple of times, but I thought she really stepped up her game on the offense tonight as well. She's a good player.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.