C. Mich. 47
MOUNT PLEASANT – Central Michigan’s best friend turned into its worst enemy down the stretch last night: free throws.
Michigan chipped away at a 10-point Chippewa from held midway through the first half until halfway through the second frame. Melinda Queen’s putback on a Kelly Helvey miss with 9:36 left in the game finally put the Wolverines ahead for the first time since 6-5.
From there on out, Central Michigan lost its touch from the charity stripe.
Having gone 12-for-14 from the line to that point, it converted just four of its last nine attempts as Michigan escaped Rose Arena with a 52-47 win last night.
Conversely, Michigan was clutch from the line. Sophomore point guard Jessica Minnfield and junior forward Katie Dierdorf each made a pair of free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the win.
While the home team had hit-and-miss free throw shooting, Wolverine freshman Krista Philips was the real thorn in Central Michigan’s side. The Chippewas had no answer for the 6-foot-6 center, who led the team with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.
“She’s just a big house,” Central Michigan guard Sharonda Hurd said.
Hurd said that Phillips not only affected the Chippewa post players and guards, but also stepped out on dribble penetration to force tough shots for her opposition.
The Chippewas tried to force Michigan (5-2) to switch defensive assignments so Philips would have to guard their perimeter players, and a Michigan guard or small forward would have to guard their post players. But the plan was to no avail as the Wolverines feature a few wings that could handle that assignment, sophomores Carly Benson, Stephany Skrba and Melinda Queen.
The Wolverines outdid Central Michigan down the stretch, particularly Queen, who was 4-for-5 in the second half and made several layups. She finished with 10 points.
Junior forward Ta’Shia Walker also added 10 points. Her basket with 1:47 gave Michigan a 47-44 lead.
On the next possession, Benson stole the ball off a backdoor pass with the Wolverines clinging to a three-point lead, and Michigan was able to take 26 seconds off the clock, making a Central Michigan comeback improbable.
The Chippewas’ early effort was keyed around their ability to take advantage of backdoor cutting, but Michigan adjusted.
“We want them to go back door because we know our help is going to be there,” Helvey said.
Aside from a Central Michigan layup, the rest of the scoring came from the free-throw line – where Central Michigan alienated a close ally.