SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Sidney Cooks felt like she had recently pieced together some strong practices.
And that translated into a strong showing in the big dance for the Michigan State sophomore forward.
Cooks made a big mark in her first career NCAA tournament game, scoring 21 points off the bench while playing a key role for the No. 9 seeded Spartans in an opening-round 88-87 victory over No. 8 seed Central Michigan on Saturday.
The 21 points for Cooks matched a career-high she set in an early January home victory over Minnesota.
"I've had a few good practices, just really focusing on finishing at the rim lately," said Cooks, who was 10 of 14 from the field while registering her third game with at least 20 points this season.
"Everyone knows I can shoot a jump shot and I can shoot a 3. I think my best games are when I start inside and catch the ball and score, instead of having to do a move every time. Coach has really been on us about catching and scoring. I was just focused on that and using my height and my speed as an advantage today. It really worked out. I'm glad I was able to make my shots."
The 6-foot-4 Cooks and 6-4 Jenna Allen were big factors inside against a smaller CMU squad. Both were perfect from the floor in the final quarter and combined for 12 of MSU's 22 points during the final 10 minutes.
MSU coach Suzy Merchant thought being able to play both together on the court was big.
"(Sidney has) been practicing really well and we felt like the size piece against Central Michigan was something we had to exploit clearly," Merchant said. "They high-ball screen and space you to death, and we can do some of that, too. We knew our advantage at times would be to play Sid and Jenna together."
Photo Credit: Cody Scanlan (Central Michigan Life)