Fouls haunted Michigan in WNIT semifinal loss

Daily Sports Writers
Published March 31, 2010

Freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins scored eight points in the first half of the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 76-59 loss to Miami on Wednesday night. But during the 10 minutes before halftime, she rode the bench due to two quick fouls.

Along with Hollins on the pine sat the Wolverines' momentum with a towel over its shoulder.

The 11-point lead Michigan enjoyed in the first six minutes of the WNIT final four match slowly evaporated every minute Hollins sat. And the Hurricanes had an opportunity to rally back and take a 37-33 lead into the half.

“Dayeesha was playing huge in the beginning of that game,” junior guard Veronica Hicks said. “She was doing a dynamite job out there. She had a few tough calls. ... As a unit we have to learn to pick it up no matter what, and unfortunately we didn’t.”

When Hollins did play, she had the hottest hands in the game. She led the Wolverines in points scored, though she played just 26 minutes. When Hollins sat for so long in the first, it essentially pulled Michigan out of the game.

“When Dayeesha came out of the game it hurt,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “We had a big lead. We didn’t play quite as well we wanted to play. As soon as Day came out that lead kind of went away.”

In the second half, Hollins was back on the hardwood and quickly regained her momentum. Sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds, Hicks and Hollins recorded seven points on three straight possessions.

But then it happened. When senior center Krista Phillips recorded her fourth foul just about three minutes into the second half, momentum got benched again.

This time it wasn't coming back.

“Whenever somebody gets around, she is there,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said of Phillips. “Whenever there is a rebound, she gets the rebound. I think when she was out, especially in the second half, they just outrebounded us. They had a lot of rebounds.”

Michigan was out-rebounded 45-36 and Phillips watched from the sidelines until there were just seven minutes remaining with Michigan trailing 58-51. Then, about a minute after she came in, Miami drained three 3-pointers in as many possessions to essentially end the game.

“Missing 6-foot-6 in the post, you can’t really replace that with anything but 6-foot-6 and higher,” Hicks said. “You need that size in the post. When she’s not in we are not as aggressive of putting it toward the block.”

That’s when it was over. Because with 3:45 remaining in the game, Phillips committed her fifth foul and was taken off of the court permanently.

“She is just a bigger target,” Hicks said. “You miss her on the rebounds and you miss her on the boards. She just got some pretty bad calls today, I just think its frustrating for her all around.”

Not only did Michigan have to sit two of its starters for a significant amount of time, but it also was forced to rely on others, most of whom aren't necessarily battle-tested this postseason.

Suddenly freshmen Nya Jordan, Rachel Sheffer and sophomore Courtney Boylan were thrusted out on the court without having seen much playing time in the WNIT aside from late minutes in the Wolverines' several blowouts.

The foul trouble didn’t just force Borseth to substitute starters, but it was the first — and last — time Michigan dealt with foul trouble in its tournament run. The fouls disrupted the patterned offensive roster that Borseth had instituted the entire tournament.

"I didn't think we had any chance unless we did it," Miami coach Katie Meier said regarding getting Phillips in foul trouble. "That was definitely part of our game plans ... we have to try to get her away from the basket."

What do you know? It worked.