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Growing pains evident in 61-50 loss to Ohio State

Alex Galel/Daily
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By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 23, 2014

Some things are just too good to be true, or at least, too good to be true on a nightly basis. There was a certain inevitability to the Michigan women’s basketball team’s off night Thursday, when even a 17-point effort from junior guard Shannon Smith couldn’t save the Wolverines.

Inexperience caught up with Michigan early and often in a 61-50 loss to Ohio State in front of 1,646 at Crisler Center. But Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico knew she could only be so upset with a team that features only six players who receive regular playing time, only one of whom played substantial minutes last year.

“Maybe we saw our young team be a young team for the first time in a long time,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s what I’m hoping it is.”

In this case, being a young team entailed shooting 2-for-16 from beyond the arc, turning the ball over 17 times and registering just seven assists as a team all night — by and large Michigan’s worst offensive performance of the year.

Trailing 16-8 14 minutes into the game, it was clear to the Wolverines that reaching even their season-low scoring total of 52 points would be a stretch.

Barnes Arico conceded that there are bound to be bumps in the road for a team that has relied on the rebounding of a junior who has never averaged more than three minutes per game and the shooting of two underclassman guards playing their first meaningful minutes of college basketball.

Smith has been overshadowed in recent weeks by freshman guard Siera Thompson, whose torrid 3-point shooting led the Wolverines to a 4-1 start to Big Ten play. But even Thompson, who was the nation’s eighth-most accurate 3-point shooter entering Thursday’s game, isn’t immune to off nights. After draining a wide-open 3-pointer 38 seconds into the game, she missed her last seven attempts from the field.

Smith did her best to make up for her teammates’ offensive dormancy. She attempted 20 field goals, many of which came with the shot clock winding down, but only seven ended up on the right side of the iron.

Sophomore guard Madison Ristovski is also capable of Thompson-esque offensive outbursts, but she also had an off night against the Buckeyes, finishing with just six points on a 3-pointer, a field goal and a free throw.

“I swear, in shootaround today, Madison made 10 straight threes,” Barnes Arico said. “Usually if somebody’s off, somebody else will pick it up.”

But for the first time since Michigan’s season-opening loss to Bowling Green, nobody was there to pick up the slack. The cold spell even extended to Michigan’s forwards, as junior Nicole Elmblad went 3-for-11 from the field.

“It happens once in a while,” Elmblad said. “One of these games, the ball just wasn’t going to go in the net. … We didn’t do a very good job of controlling the things we could control.”

The loss breaks a remarkable 10-game run in which the Wolverines’ only losses came at the hands of Michigan State and No. 4 Notre Dame.

Note: Michigan received 19 points in the AP Top 25 poll from Jan. 20, but was conspicuously absent from both the USA Today poll and Charlie Creme’s Bracketology projections from the same date on ESPN.com.