BLOOMINGTON – Before yesterday’s game against Michigan, Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack told her starters they’d be subbed out right away if they didn’t attack the basket.
They did, and Legette-Jack didn’t have to go to her bench much.
Indiana took the lead early in the game and never let up, beating the Wolverines 74-65 yesterday at Assembly Hall.
“We went back to who we were, and that’s attack the basket,” Legette-Jack said. “Once we attack the basket, great things happen.”
On Jan. 24, the Hoosiers lost 65-54 at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines flustered Indiana’s motion offense with various defensive looks, holding the Hoosiers to 34.4 percent from the field.
But yesterday, Michigan (7-7 Big Ten, 14-10 overall) was unable to stop the Hoosier attack as Indiana (8-6, 15-11) constantly forced the ball down low, shying away from the 3-pointer and instead scoring 38 of its points in the paint.
“Indiana was walking right around us,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “Every kid that got the ball drove it to the basket.”
Indiana sophomore guard Jamie Braun led the Hoosier attack with 22 points, while junior Whitney Thomas caused trouble for the Wolverine defenders down low. Thomas finished with a double-double, throwing in 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. “Whether we’re that poor at defense, I’m not really certain,” Borseth said. “I do know if your defense stops people, your offense works better.”
Michigan’s offense didn’t struggle to put up points – the Wolverines scored five more points than their season average. Michigan just struggled to keep up with the Hoosiers.
It didn’t help that Indiana’s aggressive play led to early foul trouble for Michigan, as one starter after another headed to the bench because of fouls.
Borseth, who tends to stick with his starting lineup, was forced to rely on his bench in the first half. The junior duo of Ashley Jones and Stephany Skrba scored 14 of Michigan’s 30 points before the break
Down by 10 at halftime, Borseth decided to go back to his starters, hoping they could gut out a win.
Michigan came out of the locker room strong, twice reducing the deficit to five points, but Braun and Thomas defused Michigan’s momentum with quick baskets.
Every time the Wolverines pulled close, they were wracked by fouls. Indiana shot 24 free throws in the game and shot 80 percent from the charity stripe in the second half.
“We were in there for awhile, until we broke down defensively and fouled them,” Borseth said.
The Wolverines rank ninth in the Big Ten in points per game and have leaned on their defense to pull them through all season. Michigan has just one loss when it holds opponents under 60 points, and that was against a defensive-minded Purdue team.
But defensive struggles have doomed the Wolverines, and Sunday was no different.
“We just never stopped them,” Borseth said.