The Big Ten is undefeated in the history of the Big Ten/ACC Women’s Basketball Challenge. Then again, the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 65-50 victory over Miami (Fla.) last night was the Challenge’s inaugural game.
This is the first time in five years Michigan has started a season with three straight wins.
Senior Janelle Cooper hit two 3-pointers to bring Michigan out to an early 10-6 lead, but the Hurricanes rallied over the next four minutes to take a 17-10 advantage.
Then came the run.
Michigan outscored the Hurricanes 29-5 in the final 11:29 of the first half.
“(Michigan) coach (Kevin) Borseth was just telling us to keep the ball on the block,” senior Ta’Shia Walker said. “Our main focus was on defense to make sure they don’t drive the lane on us. We really worked hard to try to fulfill his philosophy.”
While Michigan (3-0) shot 60 percent from the floor and hit 7-of-11 3-pointers in the first half, the Hurricanes went 9-for-25 from the field.
“We did a real good job defensively against a team that was really athletic,” Borseth said. “On the offensive end of the court, we were real efficient in the first half. Particularly, we moved the ball well.”
Cooper’s 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists led the Wolverines. Walker, who Borseth considered not starting, was efficient, scoring 17 points in just 20 minutes.
Michigan’s first-half run allowed the Wolverines to skate by with a less proficient second half, as Miami (1-2) outscored Michigan, 28-26.
One of the biggest improvements the Wolverines made from their previous game against Cincinnati was the ability to minimize their long-range shots. After launching 29 3-point attempts against the Bearcats, Michigan limited its efforts from behind the arc to 19, and it paid off.
“We had good rhythm on the shots that we took,” Borseth said. “Of the threes that we took, probably only one of them was out of rhythm.”
Sophomore Krista Phillips and junior Stephany Skrba were the only two Wolverines to play significant minutes off the bench, but the duo combined for 11 points and eight rebounds.
Michigan now has four games left on its 20-day stint away from Ann Arbor.
“Each game now is going to get a little more difficult because the teams we play now are very good,” Borseth said. “We’re playing some teams that are very successful.”