Posted November 11, 2013 on AP on Fox
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant would have loved to see how the 19th-ranked Spartans would have looked playing No. 6 Notre Dame with 6-foot-7 center Madison Williams in the game. She couldn't take the chance. The redshirt junior could have helped on the boards as the Irish (2-0) used a 52-29 rebounding advantage to beat the Spartans 81-62 on Monday night. Williams has played only 25 minutes in three seasons at Michigan State because of knee injuries and Merchant is making sure she doesn't rush her. ''Madison Williams would have made a major difference in that game, especially on the boards. That kid is really, really talented,'' Merchant said. Without her, the Spartans struggled to keep Notre Dame off the offensive glass. The Irish grabbed 24 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 25 second-chance points. ''We knew coming into this game that one of their strongest points was offensive rebounding so that's what we worked on all week,'' Annalise Pickrel said. ''Then tonight we just. ... They got consecutive offensive rebounds. One is not fine, but one's enough, but then we didn't box out from there. So it just turned into chaos. ''They're a big athletic team, but we weren't pushing them back.'' Becca Mills scored 15 points and Pickrel had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State (0-1). Taya Reimer had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Jewell Loyd scored 22 points and added nine rebounds for the Fighting Irish. Coach Muffet McGraw wanted her team to be tougher this season, and she saw glimpses of that Monday night. ''I don't think we're quite where I want to be yet,'' McGraw said. ''I thought (Reimer and Loyd) played today a little differently. A little bit meaner.'' Notre Dame improved to 28-5 overall - and 9-1 at home - against ranked teams over the past two seasons. The Irish have won 15 of their last 16 games in November, with the only loss coming to No. 1 Baylor in 2011. Of Reimer's 13 rebounds, eight came on the offensive glass. ''Just being physical and trying to be mean, that's the only way that you can muscle for those rebounds,'' Reimer said. ''I definitely am too nice. I'm trying to work on it.'' Kayla McBride started just 2 of 10 from the field for Notre Dame but finished with 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Irish led by as many as 22 points in the second half, but Michigan State cut Notre Dame's lead to 11 three times. The final time, with 7:15 to play, the Irish answered with a 9-0 run highlighted by a layup off an alley-oop pass and a tough basket in the paint by Loyd. ''Jewell, I thought, was the player of the game,'' McGraw said. ''She made a lot of big things happen for us.'' Five straight points by the Spartans early in the second half got the lead down to 11, but consecutive putbacks by Ariel Braker halted that push. ''We couldn't find a way to keep them off the boards,'' Merchant said. Michigan State missed its first 13 3-point attempts before Tori Jankoska hit one, just under 7 minutes into the second half. ''I think it was a bad shooting night'' Mills said. ''I think we rushed our shots a lot, in the first half especially. So I think that was part of it. But that's one of the things I think we're good at this year is shooting 3s. So that's a little surprising. You add a couple of made shots and it's a different game.'' Neither team shot the ball well in the first half, both just over 34 percent, and both teams committed nine turnovers. The difference came on the boards where the Irish outrebounded MSU 31-16. Leading by three points at the 14:07 mark of the first half, the Spartans went the next 4 minutes without a field goal, going 0 of 4 from the field with three turnovers. In that span, Notre Dame used an 8-2 run to go up seven points after a 3-pointer by Loyd. Loyd's fallaway jumper from the paint with just over 4 minutes left before halftime capped another run, 9-0 this time, which pushed Notre Dame's lead to 12. Loyd finished the half with 14 points, and Reimer had nine points and nine rebounds, six offensive. ''It's all about heart and determination to try and get the ball,'' Loyd said.
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