“Hitting the wall” is an extremely common phrase in sports. Usually it’s brought up when an athlete — not used to the rigors of the season — begins to wear down and show signs of fatigue.
For the Michigan women’s basketball team, that time might be now. The Wolverines have dropped eight games in a row and may need to recover physically. With many freshmen playing key roles, it is possible that the road games and strenuous practices are beginning to take their toll. The Wolverines just finished three games in five days, two of which were on the road. But now the team has a nine-day break to rest and incorporate some new things into its game plan.
“It’s a break that we all needed, coaches included,” coach Cheryl Burnett said. “We gave them Wednesday off and will give them Sunday off to give us really nice recuperation time. We finally get to add a few more things execution-wise and to add things offensively and defensively.”
While Michigan no doubt needs time to mend and include new schemes in its playbook, the Wolverines also need to heal their psyche a bit.
“(It’s a time to) get mentally focused,” Burnett said. “To have this amount of time to work on ourselves is really good.”
Part of the work the team needs to do includes gaining some confidence back after losing to No. 5 Ohio State 84-56 on Tuesday night. Michigan stuck with the Buckeyes for the first 13 minutes of the game, but the shooting barrage from Ohio State senior guard Caity Matter — who had a game-high 28 points — proved to be too much for the Wolverines to handle.
Senior forward Tabitha Pool hopes the team will be able to bounce back after its break.
“We just want to get better each day,” Pool said. “The losing is probably, I don’t know, depressing everybody. It’d be OK if we get a loss if we went out all hard, but I don’t see that. I think that’s a big step. We need to just go and put two halves together.”
A tale of two halves: Pool struggled in the first half, shooting just 1-for-8 from the field as Ohio State took an insurmountable 21-point lead. But the second half was a different story, as Pool kept firing away, and her shots started to drop. She finished with 23 points, 16 of which came in the second half.
“I just said; ‘Let’s just go,’ ” said Pool. “We’re not going to give up. We’ve got to keep going. I was just trying to penetrate to get some open looks for the perimeter players.”
Pool’s shooting was not enough to keep Michigan in the game, but her effort did not go unnoticed by the Wolverine coaching staff.
“What I appreciate so much about Tabitha is that in the past three games we have challenged the team in accountability, coach-ability and effort,” Burnett said. “I just thought that Tabitha was a brilliant leader in the second half, (and) that had nothing to do with her offensively. But yet I think that it results in great things.”
Injury update: With less than five minutes to go in the game, Michigan senior forward BreAnne McPhilamy took an elbow to the nose in a scrum for a rebound. Her nose bled quite a bit, but the coaching staff does not think she will miss any time.
“I talked to the trainers, and I think that she will be fine,” Burnett said.
With freshman forward Katie Dierdorf out indefinitely, Michigan cannot afford to lose another Wolverine from its thin bench.