EAST LANSING — Julia Ayrault believes the early experiences for the Michigan State women’s basketball team have been valuable as the Spartans have found their footing during a dominant start under new coach Robyn Fralick.
But MSU (4-0) is about to get a much better gauge of where it stands this week as the Spartans hit the road for games against James Madison and Creighton in the Cancun Challenge on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Those games are part of three straight away from Breslin Center for MSU, which also has a road game at DePaul on Nov. 30.
“It will be good for us to play on the road and kind of see the difference,” Ayrault said. “We’ve had a few home games in a row. Now we can get on the road and get a little different vibe going and some different competition will be great for us.”
James Madison is the defending Sun Belt Conference champion and is the preseason favorite to win the league again this season. James Madison, which was part of the NCAA tournament last March is off to a 4-1 start. Creighton (3-1) was ranked No. 22 in last week’s Associated Press rankings. Creighton, which was also an NCAA tournament team last season, picked up a win over Nebraska on Sunday.
“We know we’re going to be facing some really good competition,” Fralick said. “I always love that the game of basketball, if you do it right, can take you a lot of places. You’ve got to be able to balance being able to go to Cancun, which is a great experience for our whole program, and lock into competing and being able to perform at a high level.
“The game of basketball will take you a lot of cool places if you love it right and you do it right. Our goal is to be able to balance both of those.”
The Spartans are averaging 99.0 points, are shooting 59% from the field and had 111 assists on 151 made baskets during a homestand that featured lopsided wins against Oakland, Wright State, Detroit Mercy and Evansville. MSU also forced an average of 22.2 turnovers a game.
Fralick hopes her team can build on many of the positives she’s seen as the tests get much bigger on the road.
“I loved our teamness,” Fralick said when asked for her assessment of the opening homestand. “Just looking at the box score — (I like) the distribution of scoring, the sharing of the ball, the high assists. The strength of our team is the team and our ability to play together and trust each other to make the right play. The same defensively. We have to move with connectivity and I’ve seen that so far. We’ve got to find a way to continue that teamness as we go forward.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on X @brian_calloway.