by Amy Mills
IU Super Bowl Student News Bureau
INDIANAPOLIS – As the Spartan Brass band played the fight song, Michigan State’s athletics staff and fans oozed with enthusiasm. Downtown Indianapolis was alive with Spartan faithful at the Hilton Garden Inn. The No. 5 Spartans face No. 12 Indiana Thursday night in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. Having won seven of their last eight games, MSU traveled into town with momentum on their side. “Now is the time to be at our best and we are playing well as a team,” freshman guard Kiana Johnson said.
Support for MSU has reached skyrocketing heights. Averaging over 7,000 fans per game, MSU ranks in the top 10 of the country for attendance. Pushing forward, the next four days could showcase Spartans front and center.
Shelley Appelbaum, senior associate athletic director, addressed the crowd and thanked all the people behind the scenes. “A lot of times people think what the athletics department staff does is really glamorous, but I have to tell everyone that it’s a lifestyle, not a job,” Appelbaum said.
Basketball season is long. Coaches, student-athletes and staff prepare day in and day out for success. From MSU women’s basketball secretary Margaret Selasky to student managers, each piece of the puzzle works together. Everyone associated with Spartan women’s basketball deserves a round of applause. A community full of the best minds produces top talent.
Head coach Suzy Merchant has compiled close to 300 victories in her coaching career. And, the Spartans are not stopping anytime soon. Joined by associate coach Shane Clipfell, assistant coaches Tempie Brown and NcKell Copeland, Merchant staff focuses her staff’s energy on the upcoming game. With a regular season record of 19-10, 11-5 in conference play, getting over 20 wins is important. “This is going to be a fun weekend. March is the best month in the business to be a basketball coach or fan,” Merchant said. As excitement builds, really neat things can happen for the team.
“People talk about March Madness. But, we talk a lot about March magic. We have four days, four games to create our own magic,” Merchant said. “We want to be playing Sunday afternoon for a Big Ten championship.”
As the evening drew to a close, Spartan players gathered to share interesting facts in a college game day simulated fashion. Red shirt senior Lykendra Johnson commented about leading the team past Indiana and on to Purdue. Red-shirt junior Courtney Schiffaur spoke about Penn State junior Nikki Greene being the hardest player in the league to guard. And finally, freshman forward Becca Mills shared that the best part about being a Spartan was the fans.
“First and foremost, we are excited to be here with the band, cheerleaders and Sparty for the tournament,” Merchant said. “We hope to keep everyone until Sunday.”
Keys to winning will include the Spartans contesting shots, boxing out opponents and getting rebounds. Completing the small tasks will lead us to the larger victory, Johnson said.
No matter the tournament outcome, the national picture looms in the background. But, right now, winning takes precedence. It’s win or go home.