Down 20, the weathervane was firmly pointed south, but a gust of Jennifer Smith dominance in the second half led the Michigan women”s basketball team to a 80-78 upset over No. 25 Iowa.
The Wolverines” effort shadowed that of Smith, meaning a slothful start but a beastly finish.
Smith “turned the ball over the first three times she touched it,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “She could have come on the bench and gone in the dumps but she didn”t.”
A combination of Michigan”s butter-finger ball handling and Iowa making easy shots deep in the paint led to a 14-0 run that put the Hawkeyes up 25-7.
It was nothing that intra-team oral abuse couldn”t solve.
“People were yelling at each other in the floor, but not in a bad way,” said Michigan”s Anne Thorius, who recorded her 500th career assist. “Everyone got into it, and it was really intense. People were getting excited.”
Being senior day and fan appreciation day, the Crisler crowd wouldn”t let Michigan hibernate.
“They were screaming and yelling and on their feet and we feel their support and it really lifts us,” Thorius said.
With Michigan carving into Iowa”s lead with a 10-0 run before half-time, the Wolverines felt their 40-28 deficit wasn”t unmanageable.
Neither did Iowa.
“If you have a lead, that doesn”t mean anything,” Iowa”s Jennie Lillis said. “You”ve got to keep going with your game.”
In the second session, Michigan”s 55-percent shooting chipped into Iowa”s lead.
After cutting the deficit to 68-67, a hustle play by Stephanie Gandy resulted in an acrobatic save to keep the ball inbounds. Somehow, Gandy found Smith alone, and a layup gave Michigan its first lead since 16:42 remained in the first half.
“That (save) was not expected,” Smith said. “That was awesome, though.”
It was fitting that Smith scored the basket that gave Michigan the lead because she was having a career night that resulted in a personal-high of 26 points.
“She had her way in there in whatever she wanted to do,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Smith said her confidence snowballed as the game went on.
“Once I start going, I can really stick with it,” Smith said. “It”s just a matter of keeping posting up and making my shots.”
Smith exposed the weakness of Iowa center Randi Peterson, who made a better dwarf than a giant.
Smith “is six-foot-five, and Randy is six foot. She”s going to be in position to shoot over her,” Lillis said.
Smith was just one of four Michigan players to score 14 points or more on the night. Stephanie Gandy also added nine.
“We”re never going to win a game letting up 52 points in the second half,” Bluder said.