This past calendar year wasn’t very kind to the Michigan women’s basketball team.
The Wolverines were just 7-24 in 2006, closing it out with three straight losses (St. Bonaventure, Purdue and Indiana).
But even though the year has ended, its repercussions haven’t. A 27-game Big Ten losing streak is still alive and, with the next eight games against teams favored over Michigan, the ills of 2006 aren’t likely to go away quickly enough for the struggling Wolverines.
“Things aren’t going to all of the sudden change overnight,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said through the athletic department.
With just one Wolverine playing well, Michigan (0-2 Big Ten, 7-8 overall) was no match for Indiana on Sunday, falling 71-58.
“We’ve got to commit ourselves to getting better,” Burnett said through the athletic department. “(Sophomore forward) Carly Benson really took that to heart tonight. She’s had three fabulous days in practice and really came out today with an aggressive spirit. That’s what we’re asking all of our kids to do.”
Indiana (1-1, 12-3) – which entered the season in a similar standing as Michigan – has similar expectations for its players but got production from all seven in its rotation.
“We played intense basketball because the game was a microcosm of what we looked like in practice the last two days,” Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack said through the Hoosier athletic department. “We got more focused in practice and the outcome was indicative of the hard work that we did the last couple of days. We’re really proud of all of our kids’ effort.”
Probably none more than Sarah McKay’s. The 6-foot-7 senior pounded Michigan for 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting and seven rebounds.
Not much could be taken from the 79-35 stomping at Purdue last Thursday.
“You’re talking about 79-35,” Burnett said. “Of course I try to be an optimist, but we’ve just got to figure out a way to score.”
Said senior forward Kelly Helvey: “We just need to work harder. . This just needs to be taken and thrown away.”
Even though the Wolverines lost at Indiana, at least now they see how they can make progress.
“We’ve been practicing really hard the last couple of days,” Helvey said. “A lot of things have been changing. We’re working harder. We’re taking accountability for everything that’s happening.”
But 2006 wasn’t all lows for Michigan. Perhaps the brightest moment came Dec. 16 in a home game against Dartmouth.
Trailing 65-64 with 18 seconds left, junior forward Ta’Shia Walker intentionally fouled the Big Green’s Michelle Meyer.
She missed both free throws, and with an Ashley Jones rebound, the Wolverines were in business.
But with no timeouts, the possession looked lost. Michigan just passed the ball around, and it appeared almost as if it would not even get a shot up.
“First of all, I wasn’t really even paying attention to the clock,” Minnfield said. “I was up there dribbling around and then I heard the bench say ‘Shoot!’ So I passed it to the open person.”
And that was sophomore forward Melinda Queen standing behind the arc in front of the Michigan bench. Queen had taken just 10 3-pointers in her career to that point.
“I just shot the ball and the rest is history,” Queen said.
The shot fell at the buzzer to give the Wolverines a 67-65 win, and Queen was mobbed by the bench.
Michigan will look to have more moments like that in 2007 and less like the ones at Indiana and Purdue.
Its first chance will be tonight when it hosts Illinois at 7 p.m. at Crisler Arena.