MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant:

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“We lost Aisha Jefferson last night, for the season. She blew her knee out so she will not be playing for us this year which is pretty tough to handle but at the same time it means that some freshmen are going to be getting some key minutes for us. We got the word officially late last night from our medical staff so it’s kind of a bummer, but at the same time I think that our kids will respond. (Aisha) does a lot for us, not only talent-wise, but emotionally, she’s our leader, but I do think we have some kids that can step up and will step up.Â


“We were able to pull away in the second half (vs. Lake Superior State). We got some key minutes from Courtney Davidson, and our freshman Kalisha Keane stepped up. I’d like to play Kalisha more at the 3 because she’s a big guard that we can post. Now she is going to have to play a lot more 4 for us in place of Aisha. We do expect Allyssa (DeHaan) to be back on Friday. She will be back on Friday and that is a good thing for us.Â


“We’re young and we have a lot of work to do, but I’m proud of the fact that our kids stepped up in the second half given the fact that we didn’t have Allyssa or Aisha. That’s pretty devastating for a team, a young team especially, with Aisha because she is such a big personality on the team. She just really is an energizer and a great person as well as a great player. I thought our kids did a great job in the second half of moving forward and getting the victory.Â


“Friday is our opener and we need to be prepared. We need to do some things to get better and we will.Â


On how Aisha Jefferson took the injury:
Hard, really hard. I think that she was in the best shape of her life. She told me that she was the healthiest she’s been in a long time. When I went out to see her (after the injury), she just told me, “Coach, it’s done. My knee is gone.” It didn’t look good when she did it. I don’t know if any of you were there but when she did it, it did not look good, and then when you watched it on film and it did not look good either. She’s down, but she is a vivacious person that will energize us in a different role this year. I’ve got find a different way to rally the troops and go get some victories.Â


On the severity of Jefferson’s injury:
I don’t think that it’s career ending. It’s an ACL, so I think it’s going to be a surgery thing with rehab and she’ll be back next season. That’s the positive, maybe her and Allyssa will finish with a bang, as a one, two punch in the post.Â


On all the injuries:
Yeah, it’s bizarre, but that’s the game and it’s my job to rally the troops and find a way to do what we need to do to win games. Whatever that may be, get other people to step up their role and we can do it. We’ll do it.


On the return of Mia Johnson to the lineup:
Mia is four months post-op, so we are thinking maybe by Big Ten (season), or we hope. We’re hopeful.Â


On the return of Aisha:
I’m not sure on Aisha, I don’t know the details. I think a lot of it depends on the swelling. They have to take their time before they can go do the surgery. Just depends on the damage that’s done – I know we didn’t mention all that happened, but she blew her knee out. That’s all I really relate to, I’m not smart enough to relate to all the other stuff. I just know she’s going to have season-ending surgery.Â


On having others with similar experience (Lauren Aitch, Mia Johnson):
I think that’s good. I think anytime you can walk in someone else’s shoes and help them through the tough times, I think early it’s pretty devastating news and then you get to a point and the reality sets in and now we got to push through. And I think it’s a process like this, I think Mia’s had her good days and her bad days. And the same thing with Lauren but they both have responded very well so I think that’s a good point, the one thing we do have is some kids with that exact same experience who can maybe help Aisha through her tough times.Â


On the loss of Aisha to the lineup:
It certainly is tough news to hear. Aisha is more than a player. To me, to the program and to the fans, she is what Michigan State women’s basketball is all about. It’s hard and you know you have a little grieving time, but today is a new day and we got great players and we are going to rally the troops and we are going to get them together. The way I came up from small college to mid-major, we have always had to find a way. We have never been as tall, as deep, or as talented as the next guy so we always had to find a way to beat those bigger teams and get victories. So I have felt in my career I have had to be crafty with some kind of different schemes defensively and offensively. I feel like I have some experience in that regard. But I believe that these kids will respond and I think as coaches that is our job. I am ready to lead the troops, whoever is in a uniform it’s my job to put them in the place to successful.

On the freshmen:

There is really great freshman talent here and we need to utilize it and bring it along. So if there is a positive out of it, it’s that they are going to get a lot more minutes and be ready at an earlier stage in their career. They are going to have an opportunity to impress the coaches and the fans and lead us to victory.


How important is the connection between Aisha and Kalisha:

They have really connected off the court. They are really good friends. They have the same personalities; they are very outgoing and vivacious. So I don’t know how that is going to go for Kal (Kalisha) but I know one thing, when Aisha talks, everyone listens, not just Kal, that means everyone. She has earned the respect of everyone in this program so I think how Aisha responds to that will be big for us.