By Glenn Miller Jr., Daily Sports Writer
Published February 4, 2013
After dropping three of its last four games, the Michigan women’s basketball team has a great opportunity to get itself back on a winning track. But it won’t be easy.
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On Monday, the Wolverines (5-3 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) will face their conference foe Michigan State in one of this season’s biggest matchups. The Spartans (5-3, 17-4) come into the game ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring defense (49.9), and will be looking to continue an 11-game winning streak against Michigan.
Both teams have suffered back-to-back losses recently and will be looking for a win on Monday to prevent sliding further down the standings. The Wolverines’ weak defensive efforts have been their downfall in the last two games against Iowa and Minnesota. On the other hand, the Spartans gained a confidence boost with a win over Northwestern, but suffered recent losses to Purdue and Nebraska.
Michigan senior guard Kate Thompson was phenomenal in last Thursday’s loss to Minnesota, leading the team with 18 points. Thompson recovered well from a shooting slump during her previous two games and will look to score from the perimeter against the Spartans. Her 3.71 3-point attempts lead the nation.
After a poor offensive performance against the Golden Gophers, senior guard Jenny Ryan will need to control Michigan’s offensive attack. Her three points against Minnesota was her lowest of the season, despite dishing out eight assists in the game. Ryan leads the team in both assists (109) and minutes per game (36.5).
For Michigan State, junior guard Klarissa Bell leads a dynamic offense that averages 63.6 points per game. Bell comes into Monday’s contest averaging 12 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
The Spartans boast another double-digit scorer in sophomore guard Kiana Johnson. As a freshman, Johnson led her team, and was ranked in the top-10 in the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This season, Johnson is averaging 10.8 points and 4.1 assists per game.
The game in East Lansing will be dominated by both teams’ imposing defenses. The Wolverines are ranked No. 2 in the conference in scoring defense, just behind Michigan State. The Spartans are ranked eighth nationally, while Michigan’s recent struggles have dropped them to No. 23.
With five teams tied for third place in the Big Ten, Monday’s showdown will feature a battle between two teams fighting for separation. If Michigan can win the turnover margin, it has a great opportunity to upset Michigan State and get back on a winning streak.