STATE COLLEGE — It was no secret to the record 15,389 fans
in attendance at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Michigan
women’s basketball team looked outmatched by No. 8 Penn State
coming into the game. Before the Wolverines walked off the court
with a 73-44 loss, it was obvious that the Wolverines were beaten
in every aspect.

“We had a lack of preparation,” senior center
Jennifer Smith said. “We had a lot of turnovers. We should
have come out with more intensity. We didn’t crash the boards
like we’ve done in the past two games.”

Yesterday’s game was anything but a competitive matchup.
There was no point at which the Wolverines (4-9, 11-15) were in the
game, as they quickly fell behind 13-0 at the start. The Lady Lions
(11-1,19-4) ran up a score as absurd as 30-9 before Michigan
regained some balance. The Wolverines limped into halftime,
trailing 38-15.

“When you start the game turning it over four straight
times against a very, very good team and give up incredibly easy
layups, it’s very hard to then play from behind,”
Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.

The Lady Lions continued to pour it on in the second half.

It wasn’t just behind the Big Ten’s all-time leading
scorer in senior Kelly Mazzante, either. While Mazzante did lead
the team in scoring, she scored just 16 points, more than five
points below her season average.

Penn State’s decimation of Michigan was truly a team
effort. Eight of the nine Lady Lions that played scored. Five of
them — Jess Brungo, Jennifer Harris, Jess Strom, Tanisha
Wright and Mazzante — scored in double digits.

If Michigan’s loss can be blamed on anything, it could be
the overabundance of turnovers. The Wolverines’ sloppy and
uninspired play led to 24 turnovers on the game, tied for their
season high.

Penn State’s defense contributed heavily to that
statistic, with 15 steals, but Michigan’s performance did not
come without its share of careless passes that rolled helplessly
out of bounds.

“We were turning the ball over incredibly large amounts in
all different ways,” Burnett said. “We’d get a
defensive stop and throw the ball to the outlet, and they’re
getting the steal. They were getting one-pass-away
steals.”

Altogether, Penn State outscored Michigan on fast breaks 22-0.
The Wolverines created almost zero offense from their defense,
something they had done well in last Thursday’s close loss to
No. 17 Michigan State.

The Lady Lions, conversely, scored a whopping 29 points off of
turnovers. Mazzante and Strom each had four steals, all in their
own style. Mazzante’s steals often came as Michigan began to
advance the ball upcourt, leading to an easy, uncontested
layup.

Strom, meanwhile, showed no respect for junior guard Sierra
Hauser-Price’s ability to shoot the three, and often cheated
down low to strip the ball from the post.

“Defensively, we were able to do some things with Jess
roaming around,” Penn State coach Rene Portland said.
“I thought we did a better job pressuring the guards in the
first half than we did in the second half and we made it tough for
(Smith) in the first half.”

Smith, despite Penn State’s collapsing defense, led all
scorers with 22 points. She shot only 4-for-12 from the field, but
converted on 13 of her 17 trips to the free throw line.

Sophomore Niki Reams turned in the only other productive
performance for Michigan, contributing 10 points on 3-for-7
shooting. Reams was one of the few aggressive players left for the
Wolverines in the closing minutes, when she picked up most of her
points.

“When I got in there, I wanted to do anything I could to
help out the team,” Reams said.

But what may have concerned Burnett more was the lack of
production that came from two of her star players, senior Stephanie
Gandy and junior Tabitha Pool.

Gandy scored just four points in 34 minutes of play, and
mustered only a free throw in the second half. Pool was shut out
for the first time all season.

The lackluster play may have inspired Burnett to shake up her
lineup at halftime, deciding to bench starters Hauser-Price, Pool,
and freshman Kelly Helvey and let sophomores Mie Burlin, Rachael
Carney and junior BreAnne McPhilamy have a go at it.

“When I saw the lineup, it was more than obvious that
(Burnett) was a little annoyed with her team at halftime,”
Portland said.

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