Close Big Ten games were few and far between for the Michigan women’s basketball team in past seasons.
But for the second consecutive game, the Wolverines found themselves in a tight one against Michigan State on Sunday.
Last Thursday against Purdue, Michigan struggled at the end of the game and failed to close out a win. With a one-point advantage and 4:17 on the clock, the Wolverines squandered opportunities and couldn’t secure its first Big Ten road win in four seasons.
But on Sunday, in front of a record Crisler Arena crowd, Michigan made the most of its chances to seal the win over Michigan State, 63-49. Rather than trying to keep pace with the opposition, the Wolverines dictated play in the final minutes.
The big win came down to big shots. After holding a 46-45 lead with 6:10 left, Michigan extended its cushion to 12 in the next four minutes.
“When they get in games, good players – players that have done it before, players that are winners – find a way to put the ball in the basket down the stretch,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said.
If there was anything to complain about in the Wolverines’ closing minutes, it their rushed play on offense. At one point, sophomore Krista Phillips had control of the ball in the corner, only to toss an ill-advised pass to the other side of the court where no one was waiting.
Sticking to Starters: Using the bench is supposed to reveal a team’s depth.
But ever since he played in bar-league tournaments in college, Borseth has been used to playing without substitutions.
On Sunday, Michigan State’s reserves outscored the team’s starters 29-26. Guard Courtney Davidson, off the bench, led the Spartans with 13 points.
The Wolverine bench? Nada.
Four of Michigan’s starting five played 30-plus minutes and scored in double figures. And Borseth likes it that way.
“I’m not really comfortable substituting,” Borseth said.
But it’s not because Borseth doesn’t have confidence in his players. He believes there is better familiarity and continuity among the team when only a limited number of players see the floor.
“I think the chances are defensively, you’re going to cover each other’s back and offensively, you’ll be spaced better, you’ll feel better,” Borseth said.
Outside Focus: With 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan defending the key, it’s obvious not much production will come from the inside.
But in the first half, it seemed that Michigan didn’t even think about going down low.
The Wolverines put up just two shots inside the paint. And while that shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the team launches close to 20 3-pointers per game, it wasn’t meant to be the gameplan.
“We actually worked on something of a continuous offense to get it out to somebody on the block,” Borseth said. “We practiced it one day. We tried it in the game, and just never got there.”
Michigan reverted to its normal offensive set in the second half and had a more balanced offense, making as many paint shots as three-pointers.