COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Suzy Merchant wanted to leave College Park with at least one victory.
And with her 96-year old great uncle Patrick Phillips in attendance, Merchant coached the No. 5 seed Michigan State women’s basketball team to a 55-47 victory over No. 12 seed Marist in a NCAA tournament opener at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center on Saturday afternoon.
“He came here last year and watched my team lose and he told me he went to mass before he came,” Merchant said. “…I told him to make sure he does that again. It means a lot. He’s a special guy. He’s a long time teacher in the catholic school systems and he’s the matriarch of our family and we don’t get to see him much. It’s been fun to have him out here.
“… When he gets a team to watch our team play it means that much more so I didn’t want to leave her without him seeing my team win one game.”
Phillips, who lives in the Christian Brothers home in nearby Beltsville, Md., said he enjoyed a rare opportunity to watch Merchant coach her team in person.
“It’s great,” said Phillips, who plans to be in attendance when MSU faces host Maryland at 7 p.m. Monday. “I watch her on TV but I don’t get a chance to see her much (in person).”
Phillips said he’s proud of the success Merchant has had in her coaching career. Merchant has guided her teams to 20 wins in each of the last nine seasons. MSU’s 25 wins this season are the third most in a season in school history.
“I’m very proud,” Phillips said. “I’m proud as can be. …It’s a family pride.”
ROAD TRIP: MSU team manager John Medici was so excited about MSU getting into the NCAA tournament that he made the trip to College Park, Md., to support the team.
“I wanted to be here to see it in person,” said Medici, who made the drive with MSU junior transfer guard Camille Glymph on Friday.
Medici has made road trips to a few of MSU’s away contests this season and has enjoyed his time in the program as a team manager this season.
“I’m impressed with how amazingly tough these girls are, like Courtney Schiffauer or a J.T. (Jasmine Thomas),” Medici said.
Medici was planning to start driving back to East Lansing on Saturday night because of a class Monday and will miss that night’s game against No. 4 seed Maryland.