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Michigan's grit not enough for Blue Devil pressure

By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 28, 2012

It’s back to reality for the Michigan women’s basketball team.

After winning five of their first six games of the season, the Wolverines were reminded that there is work to be done. They were reminded of their shallow bench. And they were reminded why they are still unranked.

On Wednesday night, No. 4 Duke (5-0) did everything in its power to remind Michigan (5-2) that the Wolverines are still far from complete.

The Blue Devils were more aggressive, constantly trapping Wolverines on the wing. On every offensive possession, Michigan would find itself backed into a corner with two Duke players pressuring. In addition, the Wolverines were forced to use most of the shot clock on every possession in the first half, unable to find an open look to the basket.

Knowing the Blue Devils were going to pressure proved to be little help for the Wolverines. Duke played fast, converging on the ball on every Michigan possession. In the first nine minutes of play the Wolverines had eight turnovers — 20 total on the game.

The Wolverines rallied at the end of the first half cutting Duke’s lead to as little as two points on a 15-1 run to end the half by holding the Blue Devils without a field goal for the last 6:41.

“(The fact) that we were down, stuck together, were able to rally back, and didn’t quit showed a lot of fight and a lot of perseverance,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.

But the Blue Devils didn’t let that momentum last long. They came out in the second half with the same fire they started the game with, outscoring Michigan 11-2 in the first 2:42. The Wolverines didn’t give up, fighting Duke every step of the second half despite a double-digit deficit, but the Blue Devils were too aggressive, too big, too strong and too good.

“We did a bunch of good things, but obviously their pressure really affected us,” Barnes Arico said. “They’re a No. 4 team in the country filled with a team of All-Americans, so it was nice to see in the first half when we did get down we were able (to stay) together and (rally) back and we fought. There were a lot of positives.”

If the direction of this team was ever in question it isn’t now. The Michigan women’s basketball team has character, heart, and promise. The Wolverines aren’t far off from where they want to be, putting that on display when they made a run to tighten the game late in the first half.

“I’m proud of our team for that run that we made,” Ryan said. “It showed we had a lot of fight. It showed that we are proud of who we are and what we stand for. It’s good for the future.”

In their first four games the Blue Devils held their opponents to 45 points per game while scoring 89 points per game of their own, but Michigan scored 54 points and held Duke to a season-low 71 points. In addition, the Wolverines kept the Blue Devils’ rebounding in check — Duke only out rebounded Michigan by one, winning the battle on the boards 32-31.

“There’s a lot of good signs (from the game),” Barnes Arico said. “A lot of good positives that we can take from the night. We showed signs of being a really good team.”


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