(East Lansing) – When people hear about Miami, they think about the dynamic duo of Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson. Both are All ACC performers and on any given day, they can dominate a basketball game by themselves. But in Miami’s win over Michigan State, 76-60 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it was the unsung hero that coach Katie Meyer calls, “Stro Time” that dominated for Miami; Morgan Stroman
“She’s so underrated in terms of our success and I think without question you have to give our seniors Shenise [Johnson] and Riquna [Williams] and Sylvia [Bullock] a lot of credit for changing the face of our program,” said Miami Coach Katie Meier. “But that junior class, the class we have right underneath, those kids are perfect. They are perfect student-athletes and they do everything you ask of them.”
“They can be in the shadows and don’t mind it and then in a game like this think, say `I’m okay, I’m a stud, too. I was a McDonald’s All-American too.’ That’s Morgan Stroman. We thought we had good matchups with her, and she’s so active. I end up cheering for her most of the time. I actually really love that kid so I’m really happy for her.”
As the game began, Miami’s Williams opened with a quick steal and lay-up to get Miami on the board. Right after the lay-up, Miami went to their trademark 1-3-1 press that yielded another turnover. So it looked like that would be the typical theme of the night that would lead Miami to victory, Williams and Johnson scoring and their defense causing havoc on the press. As the game progressed, Miami’s style was like the song by Lenny Kravitz, “Always on the run” because they just continued to run at a breakneck speed that seemed to discombobulate and frustrate Michigan State. But with 1:16 left in the first half, the dynamic of the game changed as one of Miami’s stars, Williams went down with what looked to be a very serious injury.
“I wasn’t happy to see it. I thought she was playing out of her mind. I took a time out in the first half, and when we came out of the time out and I really got on my kids. I could see that she was ready, and just changed her tune and I thought she was going to have a monster game. When she went down and we went into halftime I thought, Michigan State has to feel really good about themselves. Three of their key players were sitting on the bench the entire half and I didn’t think [Riquna] Williams was coming back.”
With that thought in mind, for the majority of the second half, Meier’s concern started to come to fruition as Michigan State played with much more equanimity and poise. After being down by as much as 15, Michigan State was able to curtail the lead to 8 with 14:39 left.
“I thought we did that pretty well in the second half, we kind of got them in a tough position,” said Michigan State Coach Suzy Merchant. “They would switch with their five on a ball screen, so we felt like we had the advantage to turn the corner. I think some of that came with composure from Kiana [Johnson]. I thought Kiana made some really poor choices in the first half, but she did a much better job in the second. I think she just slowed down for us a bit there.”
As Miami’s lead dwindled away and with Williams’ injury hampering the offensive flow of their team, there was one person who seemed to respond the most, Stroman.
But on first glance, Stroman’s laid back demeanor which is very reminiscent of Justin Blackmon in that her persona is very reticent and reserved. Yet when the basketball is in the air or up for grabs she just attacks it with such a ferocity and tenacity. It didn’t matter if it was going after rebounds, steals or blocks, Stroman just had a propensity for finding the basketball all night.
“She has been telling me lately that she needs energy from me,” said Stroman. “I just go out there and have fun and get my team hyped, and when I’m hyped everybody else is hyped.”
And that emotion was needed as Michigan State was able to cut Miami’s lead to just 7 on an Annalise Pickrel jumper with 6:22 left. Miami called a timeout as it was clear that Michigan State had seized the momentum and was back in the game. Once play resumed, Stroman seemed to go into another dimension for her team as she truly took over. She had a hand in 8 points whether it was scoring or her assists, 2 steals and a block over the last 6 minutes to help Miami withstand Michigan State’s late run.
“In one through five that’s the fastest, most athletic team I’ve played in my coaching career. No question,” said Merchant. “We’ve played Duke here, and it’s not a contest in terms of their athleticism one through five. The way they can come after you in different ways. In the corner court, it’s kind of the same; they create a little bit of havoc in there. They can run; those kids can run. It was a good test for us. It was disappointing for us about the first half turnovers. It’s a part of growing up a little bit.”
“She’s [Stroman] amazing and she can get out so quick too, that’s the thing. Her transition from defense to offense is really impressive. I just love to see kids that play so hard, that kid [Stroman] just leaves it out on the floor. And as much as I didn’t like to see her play that well, it’s kind of fun to watch somebody take a role and play it so well for Miami. There’s a reason why they are 6-1.”
Top Performers for Miami:
- Morgan Stroman: 20 points on 7-7 FG (100%), 3 steals, 2 blocks in 29 mins
- Shenise Johnson: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals
- Stefanie Yderstrom: 11 points, 3-6 from 3 point FG (50%)
Top Performers for Michigan State:
- Porche Poole: 17 points
- Jasmine Hines: 9 points on 4-6 FG (67%)