Michigan falls in another heartbreaker to Purdue, 65-63

Thursday, December 31, 2015 - 4:07pm

Lightning struck twice. With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Michigan women’s basketball team found itself at the free throw line with a chance to put the game into overtime. Against Eastern Michigan, Hallie Thome had been in the same situation and missed her second free throw with 5.5 seconds left. Wednesday’s situation was eerily similar, but it had its own flair for the dramatic.

After Purdue sank an uncontested 3-pointer for a three-point lead with six seconds left, the Wolverines struggled to find an open shot once they had passed half court. The ball ended up in the hands of freshman guard Boogie Brozoski, who tossed an attempt behind the arc before the buzzer. The prayer fell short.

The buzzer sounded, but the play was reviewed, and it was determined Brososki was fouled. She stepped to the line.

Her first attempt missed, and she put her head in her hands.

Michigan fell in another heartbreaker due to a missed free throw, 65-63.

“At this point, you need to make a play and win the game, or you don’t make a play and we lose the game,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We need to execute down the stretch, we worked on that a lot since Eastern, pretty much all week. But being in this situation when the lights are on, the crowd is there and the game is tied, we didn’t do as good a job as we had done in practice this week.”

An and-1 layup by sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty could’ve been a momentum builder in the first quarter, but Purdue stifled the Wolverines’ attempt to break away, trailing by one point by the end of the first quarter. The inability to capitalize on leads haunted Michigan all afternoon.

Boilermaker center Bridget Perry swished a 3-pointer early in the first quarter, forcing freshman center Hallie Thome to sometimes guard on the perimeter — something she hasn’t had to do yet this season against a center capable of shooting from distance. Senior guard Madison Ristovski countered Perry with two threes of her own.

Purdue quickly responded with a barrage of 3s, making three straight to give itself a 33-26 lead with 4:10 left in the second quarter. Purdue rode the momentum from the sharpshooting to take a 35-30 lead into the half. The Wolverines had an opportunity to score in the closing seconds of the half, but Brozoski held the ball for half a second too long for senior forward Kelsey Mitchell to receive Brozoski’s pass and then put up a layup before the buzzer sounded.

After two 3-pointers from Brozoski and Flaherty, sophomore forward Jillian Dunston’s and-1 free throw gave the Wolverines their first lead of the second half. Going into the final quarter, Michigan led, 51-50.

Four minutes into the quarter, the Boilermakers had possession with the chance to take the lead. They corralled two offensive rebounds, drew a foul and missed both free throw opportunities. The Wolverines took advantage, tacking on a layup after the second free throw clanked off the opposite rim.

With five minutes left, the game was tied at 56. Last game, this was the point where Michigan had the chance to take over and earn the win, but didn’t. Against a higher caliber team, the challenge was more difficult this time out.

Brozoski gave the Wolverines a four-point lead with four minutes left after the Purdue defense let her waltz through the lane for a wide-open layup. On the next possession, Munger intercepted a pass, took it the lane of the court and spun into a foul. She made both of her free throws to push the lead to six.

With 2:28 left in the contest, Thome fouled Perry in the paint, a questionable call from the referees that drew boo birds from the Michigan contingent. With the call, Thome fouled out, and her presence was needed. Perry sunk both of her free throws despite the noise to cut the lead to just two. Barnes Arico said the team is completely different without Thome on the floor.

“After (Thome) fouled out, we couldn’t score after that,” Barnes Arico said. “We need her on the court. When she went out, we no longer had an inside game. It’s really important for her to be on the court.”

On the ensuing possession, Brozoski was fouled but missed both free throw attempts. She finished 1-of-5 from the line on the day. Perry scored again on the next trip down the floor with no one guarding her in the paint, tying the game at 62.

“No one was even (within) 10 feet of her,” Barnes Arico said. “How does that happen?”

Then the Wolverines experienced basketball’s version of déjà vu. Made free throws could have saved the game, but allowing easy baskets to the opposition was just as much of a culprit in the loss.

Michigan has suffered two straight losses in the final minute to teams they beat by at least 29 last season. This team is different, younger and less experienced. Last year, the Wolverines were close to making the NCAA Tournament. After this loss, they must make up ground to get back into the hunt.

“We’re trying to change our whole leadership, our mentality, that when we’re in these situations, it’s unacceptable to lose,” Flaherty said. “That really has to be a set thing going into practice tomorrow.”