“I wish our whole team had the same attitude (I have),” Michigan forward Jennifer Smith said.
After yesterday’s embarassing 82-55 loss to Michigan State, Smith felt that her teammates haven’t shared her intensity during the team’s current seven-game losing streak. Smith scored 27 points to lead the Michigan scoring, nearly half of the Michigan offense.
At this point in the season, it seems anything the Michigan women’s basketball team tries seems to come up short in results.
Yesterday’s home game was the attempt to break the home attendance record, but the season’s largest crowd of 4,474 came up short. But, more importantly, the team also came up short on the court.
The Spartans swept Michigan (2-10 Big Ten, 11-12 overall) this season for the first time since 1997, and yesterday’s game seemed to pick up where the game in East Lansing two weeks ago left off – with Michigan on the receiving end of a Michigan State run. After forward Tabitha Pool hit a jumper in the opening two minutes, the Spartans went on a 9-0 run over four minutes, putting the Wolverines down 13-2. The Spartans never looked back.
In recent weeks, it seems that Michigan has allowed opponents a run that has put the game out of reach. This time, it started at the tip. Junior forward Jennifer Smith felt that the Wolverines work too hard on defense to stop a run, and that keeps it going.
“I think it’s hard for us once they go on a big run,” Smith said. “We know how critical it is to make the next stop, so we might put a little pressure on ourselves (to stop it).”
Smith struggled to find her touch in the first half, going 2-of-8 from the floor. But in the second half, she dominated the post, dropping 18 on 7-of-8 shooting. She also contained any attempt by the Spartans to score inside. But her teammates couldn’t stop their counterparts or score themselves.
Other than Smith, Michigan’s three other post players – Pool, LeeAnn Bies and Raina Goodlow – were virtually non-existent. They combined for 13 points and nine rebounds. Combined with the season-long trend of inconsistent guard scoring, Smith was basically on her own.
Michigan State (8-4, 15-8) relied heavily on the play of sophomore guard Kristin Haynie, who nailed jump shots from all over the floor, finishing 10-of-14 on the night for a career-high 22 points. But she was not alone. The Spartans (8-4, 15-8) had three other starters in double figures, and another with nine.
“I think it’s pretty tough to defend a team when you have five people who can score,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “And it’s easy to defend a team where only one person is scoring.”
With only one person scoring, the Spartans were able to clamp down on defense on everyone else. Only two other Wolverines scored more than six points, all of them shooting below 30 percent.
The big difference between the Spartans and the Wolverines was Michigan State’s ability was to hit jump shots. Michigan missed every shot outside the paint – 0-for-9 – in the second half, while the Spartans could take advantage of jumpers from 15 feet and in.
Although Michigan State played a 2-3 zone that collapsed in the post and Smith still managed to score, the Wolverines couldn’t hit the jump shots in order to make the zone spread out.
“Against the zone that Michigan State had, we needed to penetrate for the shot or the dish,” Guevara said. “We need a shooter who can score consistently.”
Even more than a jumpshooter, Guevara also indicated that she needs another go-to guard to complement Smith’s inside presence.
“We are struggling scoring the basketball,” Guevara said. “Until we get some consistency, we will continue to struggle.”