In 2002, the Michigan women’s basketball team produced an impressive 9-2 nonconference record, earned a No. 25 ranking, and looked to be ready for the grueling Big Ten season. But so far, 2003 is a completely different story. After tipping off January with two blowout Big Ten losses, the Wolverines have dropped out of the top 25, and have quickly found themselves in the conference cellar. So much for ringing in the New Year.

After Michigan dropped its home opener against Illinois, 89-59, coach Sue Guevara commented on her team’s demise.

“I was shocked and stunned with how we played in the first half,” Guevara said. “I was embarrassed. I’ve never seen that Michigan team play. We were a much better basketball team in December.”

With a game Sunday at No. 7 Purdue (0-1 Big Ten, 11-2 overall) in the hostile setting of Mackey Arena, the Wolverines (0-2, 9-4) have no time to dwell on their two-game skid.

“A big strength for Purdue is their crowd,” Guevara said. “Mackey Arena is a very tough place to play. Their crowd really appreciates a good basketball game.”

With Purdue’s impressive array of talent, handling the crowd is just the first step toward knocking off the Boilermakers. Junior Shareka Wright, who currently leads the team in scoring (18.9 points per game) and rebounding (6.6 boards per game), paces Purdue’s high-octane offense.

“They have a very nice player in Shareka Wright,” Guevara said. “She can just hurt you in so many ways.”

Perennially one of the nation’s best teams, Purdue exudes confidence.

“They know how to win,” Guevara said. “I would say one of their biggest strengths is their team attitude. They really do know how to pull it out.”

Guevara said Purdue is a very disciplined team that takes exceptional care of the ball and leads the Big Ten in turnover ratio. This is an area in which Michigan has struggled lately, turning the ball over 49 times in the last two games.

“The No. 1 thing we have to key on is limiting our turnovers, really taking a value in the basketball,” Guevara said.

The Wolverines will need a big game from junior Stephanie Gandy. Michigan is 7-1 when Gandy hits double figures, but a meager 2-3 when she does not.

Although playing one of the best teams in the country after losing two straight games can be intimidating, it is essential that the Wolverines don’t let these outside factors effect their play.

“Every game is going to be tough, but if we go into that game, ‘Oh god, here we go, we’re going in to play Purdue, we’ve already lost two games in a row,’ then you know what, don’t make the trip,” Guevara said.

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