EVANSTON — It was the Wolverines’ final possession, down just three points with 17 seconds remaining, and freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins dribbled the length of the court, passed it off to sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds who, unable to find an open look, dished it to classmate Courtney Boylan for a desperation 3-pointer that was tipped as it left her hand.
The series of events epitomized the Wolverines’ 64-60 loss at Northwestern yesterday — they tried hard and came up just short.
“We drew a play up, and it didn’t work,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “I should’ve just taken a timeout and organized — and I didn’t. And that, really, that’s the thing right now, that probably bothers me more than anything.”
Michigan’s second loss to the Wildcats (7-7 Big Ten, 14-9 overall) this season ends the Wolverines’ three-game conference win streak.
Despite shooting 44 percent from the court and 10-of-25 from downtown, the Wolverines never seemed to develop a rhythm against Northwestern’s bigger forwards.
“It didn’t even look like we played organized basketball,” Borseth said. “We never really had rhythm, the entire game. That’s the second time we’ve played them and never had rhythm.”
The lack of cohesion on offense was largely a result of the team’s inability to take care of the ball. In their win over then-No. 23 Penn State on Sunday, the Wolverines had a season-low 11 turnovers. Yesterday, Michigan (5-7, 13-9) committed 16 turnovers, including nine in the first half.
The Wildcats mixed and matched defenses all game. From possession to possession, the Northwestern defense would run a full-court press, half-court trap and drop back into zone. The varied strategy led to 10 Wildcat steals and kept Michigan off balance for most of the game.
The Wolverines couldn’t help themselves at the free-throw line, either. The team shot 8-for-14 at the line, a crucial stat in such a close loss.
“We’re in that same boat of not making free throws,” Borseth said. “It’s killing us. You cannot shoot 57-percent from the free-throw line and expect to win basketball games. And I don’t know what it is, but we just are the worst free throw shooting team in the country.”
Despite the loss, the Wolverines once again established a balanced scoring attack, with four players scoring at least nine points. Michigan was led by junior guard Veronica Hick’s 16 points. Hollins, who shot 3-for-15 in the first game against Northwestern, also put in a solid effort yesterday, scoring 11 points.
But despite the balanced offense from Michigan, the Wildcats’ shooting was even better. Northwestern shot over 47 percent from the 3-point line, including 6-for-11 in the first half.
“I don’t know what their 3-point percentage was in the first half, but I feel like they didn’t miss one,” Hicks said. “So I think the open looks they got in the first half made us lose a little momentum, coming into the second half we really just had to grind and fight.”
Despite the digging and the grinding, the team came up just short in the end.
“That might be a little sign of some of our youth,” Hicks said regarding Michigan’s inability to close out the game. “You’re asking, you know, sophomores and freshmen to make those types of plays. And the teams that we’re playing against aren’t sophomores or freshmen.”