- McKenzie Berezin/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 9, 2013
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — “Basketball is a game of runs.”
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As cliché as the expression is, it rings true time after time. One team goes on a period of scoring, then the other team does the same. In the end, the team with the more impressive or consistent one wins the game.
For the Michigan women’s basketball team (10-8 Big Ten, 21-10), this old saying ultimately doomed it in its 62-46 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals loss to Michigan State on Friday.
The game and their tournament play seemed to depict a pattern that the Wolverines have followed all season, alternating runs of success and failure.
Against Indiana, the day prior, Michigan looked great. It was playing a team it had already dominated twice earlier in the season and Michigan came out hot, starting the game on a 12-0 run. But the Wolverines slipped as the half came to an end, leading just by 10, while senior forward Kate Thompson remained scoreless from behind the arc.
The Wolverines recovered though, beginning the second half on a 12-2 run behind two early 3-pointers by Thompson, as they coasted to a 67-40 win over the Hoosiers.
While Michigan had almost certainly guaranteed itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament with its regular season play, this win should have eliminated all doubt of its appearance.
As impressive as the game was for the Wolverines, it snapped a streak of a senior leading the team in scoring, as sophomore guard Nicole Elmblad picked up her first career double-double with career-high marks 14 points and ten rebounds, as well as a career-high five assists.
By beating Indiana, the Wolverines had advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Waiting for them was Michigan State, who was seeking revenge after the Wolverines ended the Spartans 12-game winning streak over them.
And Michigan State showed it, leading the entire game. But that doesn’t mean Michigan never had a chance.
The Wolverines fell behind immediately, as junior guard Klarissa Bell scored the first four points of the game to take an early lead. Bell would finish with a game-high 20 points.
The end of the Spartans run came off of an overturned over the back violation that resulted in a basket by senior guard Jasmine Thomas to give them a 24-12 lead with 6:43 left in the half.
If Michigan wanted a chance to win this game, it needed a run of its own to at least be within striking distance coming out of the half.
And that’s what they did, going on a 13-6 run to cut the lead to five going into the half.
This was the opposite of what happened in Michigan’s first matchup with the Spartans this year. In that game, the Wolverines allowed their opponent to close out the half on a 15-4 run to grab a seven-point halftime lead. Through that run, the Spartans were able to carry the momentum into the second half, going on a 9-0 run to open a 16-point lead.
It seemed the opposite could occur this time around, but it didn’t.
Instead, Michigan turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the half and fell behind by nine again.
The game and its regular season were getting away.
But the Wolverines fought back – for the time being, as senior forward Rachel Sheffer made a 3-pointer as Michigan got within two points.
Perhaps not all was lost. Perhaps Michigan would advance to its first semifinal appearance in the Big Ten Tournament since 2001.
But then it came – Michigan State’s run.
From the 17:11 mark to the 7:46 mark, Michigan went without a field goal, getting outscored 18-7. The deficit had ballooned up to as much 19, as Michigan’s momentum quickly died.
While the Wolverines’ Big Ten Tournament run ended just after two games, it doesn’t mean they can’t make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Runs have defined this team’s season, after all.
First came the Wolverines program-tying best 10-game winning streak. Then came a sudden halt and journey back to reality as then No. 8 Penn State stopped them in their tracks. That was soon followed by a three-game losing streak, ending with 61-46 loss to the Spartans.
With its season hanging in the balance, Michigan then pulled off three-straight victories, highlighted by its first victory against Michigan State in 12 tries.
Michigan seemed to be back.