Second-half effort proves difference-maker for Wolverines

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Junior guard Jenny Ryan and Michigan headed to Evanston and caused 26 turnovers against Northwestern. Buy this photo

By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 19, 2012

EVANSTON — It was a tale of two halves.

Northwestern began the game on a 6-0 run and made the Michigan women’s basketball team look like just another mediocre Big Ten team that couldn’t win on the road. The Wildcats seemed to have all the momentum as shots weren’t falling for the Wolverines.

Eighteen turnovers later, it was a completely different story.

Michigan (4-2 Big Ten, 15-4 overall), led by an outstanding defensive effort by junior guard Jenny Ryan, forced seven turnovers and kept Northwestern off the scoreboard for the last 8:02 of the first half.

The Wildcats (2-4, 12-7) looked like they wanted to give the game to the Wolverines, committing 18 turnovers in the first half alone.

But Michigan’s shooting woes kept it close. The Wolverines shot an abysmal 27 percent in the first stanza, converting on just eight of 30 shots. Junior forward Rachel Sheffer — who has held the hot hand in Michigan’s past few games — came up empty, and none of the bench players provided a spark for the Wolverines.

Neither team capitalized on it’s chances, and by the end of the first half, the score was 24-15, Michigan.

“We really started slow,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “It was very lethargic. We just couldn’t get anything going, we couldn’t find any rhythm at all. You want to be able to steal the ball and go down and lay it in (and) we didn’t get a lot of those tonight.”

Northwestern coach Joe McKeown agreed, saying that turnovers and low shooting percentage were the two big problems in the first half.

But the second half was different, as the Wolverines heated up and went on to win 58-48.

Northwestern did a better job protecting the ball and went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to close the gap to one point.

It seemed like the Wildcats were going to keep the game close, but Michigan responded. The Wolverines looked to their bench for a spark, and this time it worked.

Redshirt sophomore Kendra Seto, on defense, and junior forward Sam Arnold, on offense, were the two key players for Michigan. Arnold continued her hot streak, shooting 4-for-9, and Seto had seven rebounds to limit Northwestern’s second-chance opportunities.

“I think our defense did a good job getting some turnovers that really enabled us to get to the free throw line and get some things happening for us,” Borseth said. “I thought (Kendra) did a great job giving us a lift on the defensive end of the court. She had six (defensive) rebounds (which were) pretty key.”

Once the defense was in place for the Wolverines, and unfortunately for Northwestern — who couldn’t seem to hit shots when it needed them most — the Michigan offense followed suit. Sheffer heated up and finished 4-for-9 on the night, and senior guard Carmen Reynolds, who hasn’t been a factor lately, hit a couple of key 3-pointers down the stretch.

The difference, Borseth said, was the energy the team played with in the second half.

“Our kids really played hard, (and) I thought that was the key for us,” Borseth said. “We played extremely hard with a ton of energy and togetherness ... and we needed to.”