In a season of reclamation, the Michigan women’s basketball team has yet another chance to prove its streak of losing seasons is over.
If the Wolverines take care of business against Purdue tonight, and Minnesota loses to Illinois, Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 9-4 overall) will find itself either tied or alone atop the Big Ten – a feat few saw coming.
But to do that, Michigan will have to exorcise some old demons.
Michigan is 12-45 all-time against Purdue. The Wolverines were blown out last year in West Lafayette, 79-35, and lost at home, 59-54. To top it off, Purdue has a 17-game winning streak against the Wolverines, dating back to the 1999-2000 season. This game seems like a great chance for Michigan to break the streak.
The Wolverines are playing their best basketball in years, and the Boilermakers (2-1, 6-8) are coming off a devastating 100-50 loss to No. 1 Connecticut. But the Boilermakers’ record is deceiving, considering the team’s tough non-conference schedule.
Purdue also returns nine letterwinners and two starters from a team that reached the Elite Eight last year.
Tonight’s game could be a trap for Michigan, with archrival Michigan State visiting Ann Arbor Sunday.
Michigan is 1-6 since the 2003-04 season in games preceding Michigan State.
“Coach Borseth’s done a good job of getting them focused on the next day, the next game,” Michigan assistant coach Mike Williams said. “We really haven’t looked ahead.”
In preparation for Purdue, Michigan has focused on stopping the Boilermakers’ transition offense.
“They’re a team that likes to score in transition off a missed basket,” Williams said. “They like to get it and go. Whoever rebounds it, down the floor they go. They’re very aggressive and attack the offensive glass. When they get it they score it.”
If the Wolverines can stall Purdue’s fast break, it will force the Boilermakers to play more in the half-court set and take more 3-pointers. That could turn out well for Michigan. Purdue ranks last in the Big Ten from long range, shooting under 30 percent on the season.
The Boilermakers also have the worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference, so Michigan plans to pressure Purdue’s ballhandlers.
The Wolverines will have to pay special attention to Purdue’s two talented post players – junior forward Lakisha Freeman and junior center Danielle Campbell. Freeman averages 13 points per game (11th in the Big Ten) and 6 rebounds per game while Campbell tallies 12 ppg and 8 rpg (5th in the Big Ten).
“We’ve been working on defending in the post, defending their flash cuts,” sophomore center Krista Phillips said. “When the time comes, we’re going to stick back to the stuff we did in practice.”