Response to runs crucial for women’s basketball

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By Max Cohen, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 11, 2014

Last Sunday against Minnesota it came early in the second half. Thursday at Northwestern it occurred right after halftime. Sunday against Purdue it happened right before the half.

In its last three games, the Michigan women’s basketball team has developed a habit of jumping out to a lead before relinquishing its advantage by allowing a substantial scoring run from its opponent. Each run altered the momentum of the games.

How it has responded to those runs has been the difference between victory and defeat for the Wolverines. Because of its inexperience, Michigan’s response to adversity during games has varied.

“We have kind of panicked a little bit and haven’t responded exceptionally well,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on WTKA Tuesday.

In the first game of the three-game stretch, the Wolverines let a Golden Gopher run change the complexion of the game entirely. Early in the second half, Michigan led by three until a 9-0 run by Minnesota halted any momentum. The Wolverines never recovered, and the Golden Gophers dominated the paint on their way to a double-digit victory.

Though Michigan unraveled against Minnesota, its response in its next game against the Wildcats was that of a more experienced team. The Wolverines led 39-31 in the first minute of the second half after controlling the majority of the game, but Northwestern battled right back with an 8-0 run.

Michigan maintained an even keel for the next few minutes, until freshman guard Siera Thompson drained three 3-pointers in two minutes to swing the momentum back in her team’s favor. Thompson’s free throws later earned the victory. The Wolverines didn’t let the Wildcats’ run spoil their earlier efforts thanks in large part to Thompson, and the result was their lone victory in the last four games.

“She’s really a special kid, she has ice in her veins,” Barnes Arico said on WTKA.

Against Purdue, Michigan was missing the kind of poise Thompson brought in responding to a run. After building a 27-13 early lead, the Wolverines let the Boilermakers back into the game and their lead shrank to 29-27 at the break, with Driscoll and junior forward Cyesha Goree in foul trouble.

“We can’t let those little mental mistakes let the other team get in a run,” said senior forward Val Driscoll after the loss Sunday.

Though Michigan didn’t fold after the run, and had a chance until the final minute, the run put the Wolverines in the position of needing timely shots to win the game. Michigan didn’t hit the shots it made against Northwestern, and a run doomed the Wolverines once again when an experienced Purdue squad hit theirs.

After Sunday’s game, Barnes Arico acknowledged that her team’s recent lapses may have been induced by its schedule of four games in 10 days. Michigan has lost four of its previous six games while many of its players experience the full grind of the Big Ten schedule for the first time. But Barnes Arico takes pride in the fact that the Wolverines have shed some of their inexperience and have been in the thick of every conference game except a blowout loss at Nebraska.

“If any team in our conference thought that we were going to be in the position where they come out and Michigan is going to give you a game or,” Barnes Arico said, “You don’t show up, Michigan is going to beat you. I think we’ve been a surprise to a lot of people.”

As of late, it hasn’t been a surprise when an opponent goes on a run to shrink a Wolverine lead. The question isn’t if Michigan will allow a run, but how it will respond to it.