Despite second-half deficit, women’s basketball claws away against Nebraska

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By Max Cohen, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 13, 2014

Jordan Hooper drained a 3-pointer from way beyond the arc with ease. The shot by the Nebraska forward with more accolades than Michigan’s entire team put the Cornhuskers up 13 points with 6:48 left. After a tightly contested first half, No. 21 Nebraska fended off the Wolverines one final time, putting its inferior opponent to bed.

Or so it seemed. Despite the significant deficit at the hands of a ranked opponent which had already handed it a drubbing earlier this season, the Michigan women’s basketball team scrapped, clawed and scraped its way back. Scrums for loose balls became the norm, and the Wolverines sought out physical contact on every opportunity.

But Michigan fell short of pulling off the complete comeback in the 76-68 loss.

The last time the teams met, the Wolverines barely made the Cornhuskers bat an eye in an 84-51 loss in Lincoln — Michigan’s only Big Ten blowout loss this year in a season in which not much was expected. It could’ve been the same at Crisler Center, except this time, the Wolverines made sure their opponent noticed them.

“We were kind of in a similar situation in their place, and we didn’t know how to respond,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “And we collapsed. … But tonight, we just kept plugging away.”

Nebraska flexed its muscle early in the second half after taking a three-point lead into the break, extending its advantage to 14 just minutes into the second half. The Cornhuskers rarely missed, shooting 26-for-44 in the game and the Wolverines didn’t help their cause, sending Nebraska five gifts in the form of turnovers in the first eight minutes of the half. But Michigan battled on.

Junior forward Cyesha Goree seemed to spend more time on the ground than she did standing up. And when she was standing, all she did was score, gather rebounds and deftly dish out assists when double teams engulfed her. Her six assists were a career high.

“We kind of had a chip on our shoulders, so we came out playing hard, fighting really hard and never gave up,” Goree said.

The Wolverines didn’t hit a field goal in the final 4:51 of the game, but drives to the rim sent them to the free throw line three times in the final 2:32. In the final two minutes, Michigan caused three Nebraska turnovers when it was down 10, hardly looking like an inferior team. The Wolverines forced them the way a scrappy team would, taking a hard charge and drawing a tripping foul, never shying away from contact.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Michigan cut the lead to six when freshman guard Siera Thompson hit two free throws with 37 seconds left, but that was the closest it would get. The Wolverines continued to persist, but when junior guard Shannon Smith’s desperation 3-pointer rimmed out with 15 seconds left, Michigan was once again the team without a chance.

“I think our kids felt better about this game,” Barnes Arico said. “Obviously, you always want to get the victory, but I think they felt better about the outcome than we did the first time we played them.”

This time, superior talent and accolades again won out against a young team. But Nebraska left Crisler Center with a few extra bumps and bruises, and Michigan was just fine with that.