EAST LANSING – Michigan women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth muttered under his breath as he solemnly walked back out onto the Breslin Center court for last night’s second half.
The reaction was fitting, considering the Wolverines had scored just 13 points in the first frame last night against Michigan State.
And by the time the game ended, Michigan had tallied just 14 more, causing Borseth to look downright depressed.
The Wolverines lost 52-27 to the Spartans, the lowest point total in program history.
The game in East Lansing looked much more like a neighborhood street game than a Big Ten matchup. Tensions were high, with each team hitting the hardwood almost every time the ball went up and down the court.
“It’s a battle either way,” sophomore guard Veronica Hicks said. “They’re up in the series and they want to keep us down, basically. We’re in-state, we’re supposed to be rivals. But they have been getting the better of us.”
For all of the game’s physicality, the Wolverines’ efforts fell short. Michigan shot just 19 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line. The Wolverines’ previous scoring low this year was 37 from the first time they played the Spartans on Jan. 15.
That game on Jan. 15 was an emotional loss for Michigan, back when the Wolverines’ record was still above .500. But Michigan State made an example of Michigan once again.
“Every time we go out and play each other, one of the teams wants to make a statement,” Hicks said. “Tonight they really just came out and they played aggressive because they wanted to push us in the dirt.”
Senior guard Jessica Minnfield found herself on the floor many times throughout the game. She drew offensive fouls, was bumped driving to the basket and played physical defense.
Michigan State didn’t escape the game without some bruises of its own, either. Michigan came out attacking on defense, which tangled up the Spartan offense. The Wolverines contested almost every shot, but Michigan State successfully countered the Wolverines’ aggressive man-to-man scheme by going straight at them head on and driving to the basket.
And on the offensive end, Michigan wasn’t surprised by the Spartans’ zone defense. The Wolverines just flat out missed their shots.
Michigan worked on its offensive game plan all week in preparation for the Spartans’ stout 2-3 zone defense. The practice appeared to pay off early in the game as the Wolverines forced two turnovers that led to open layups and jumped to a 9-3 lead.
But the Spartans ended the half on a 19-4 run by going back to what worked for them in the matchup earlier this season: points in the paint and open mid-range jump shots.
“I thought we had a good plan coming in,” Borseth said. “Started out good … and then nothing.”
Michigan State continued its strong play in the second half and the Wolverines couldn’t counter because their shots weren’t dropping. The Spartans didn’t shoot the lights out, either, and they turned the ball over almost as much as Michigan did, but Michigan State’s 28 points in the paint were the difference.
Even though the Wolverines were outplayed last night, senior forward Carly Benson is confident that the two teams may meet again.
“We played (Michigan State) close at home, when we didn’t play very good either,” Benson said. “And we played absolutely god awful tonight. So if we had any kind of offensive output we would have been in that game.”