That’s the number of Big Ten wins the Michigan women’s basketball team has had over the past three seasons combined.
But this year, under new coach Kevin Borseth, things seem to be changing.
The Wolverines opened their Big Ten campaign with a dominant 63-46 thumping of Iowa at Crisler Arena Sunday.
Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) pounded a Hawkeye team that Wolverine center Krista Phillips bludgeoned in the post.
Phillips finished the game with 12 points and three blocks, and the Wolverines shut down Iowa when it mattered most – at the end of the game.
“Krista is getting better,” Borseth said. “I don’t think you’ve seen anywhere near what her full capability is. If we can get her to move her feet defensively a little bit, it will really help her.”
Phillips played well throughout the entire game but was a crucial factor in the first 30 minutes, which were a tough, drawn-out affair. Her blocks and interior defense, along with her 13 rebounds, keyed the Wolverines when it looked like Iowa might break the game open early in the second half.
The Hawkeyes garnered a barrage of second looks, and with 18 offensive rebounds, Iowa exploited one of Michigan’s weaknesses. But Phillips and the Wolverines’ interior defense prevented Iowa from leading by more than two.
With 10 minutes to play, Michigan held a slim 44-40 lead when Janelle Cooper nailed a three-pointer to extend that lead to seven. After a pair of buckets by senior guard Krista Clement and junior forward Stephany Skrba, Cooper added her third three of the night to extend the Michigan advantage to 14. The Hawkeyes called a timeout as Michigan’s bench exploded with excitement.
“I think everyone is very focused right now,” Cooper said. We’re really buying into the new system. If things aren’t going the way we like it out there, we make sure we keep each other confident.”
With just four Big Ten wins in the past three seasons, opening the season with a victory proves Michigan may finally be heading in the right direction. It was also Michigan’s first win in its Big Ten Big Ten opener in six years.
“Since I’ve been here, I never had a chance to win a Big Ten opener,” Cooper said. “It feels really good and gives me a lot of excitement heading forward into the season. We all know that we can do something in the conference this year.”
Despite Michigan’s late-game run, the early part of the contest was evenly played.
Both teams delivered blows in a game resembling a boxing match. That grind-it-out style of play has been a characteristic of the Wolverines this year.
Borseth’s motto this season has been to play one game at a time, play one play at a time and move forward from there.
So far Michigan has played one Big Ten game and has one conference win. Perhaps his motto is working.