For the briefest moment, it seemed that fortune was smiling upon the Michigan women’s basketball team.
A hard-fought second half against Michigan State culminated in a tie, 63-63, with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. Then, in a most inexplicable way, Courtney Boylan’s defender went head first into the hardwood, leaving the senior guard open to deliver a 3-point dagger. But her shot clanged off the back iron, and was picked up by the Spartans.
Down at the other end, Spartan guard Porshe Poole dropped a 15-foot jumper, stopping the clock at four seconds — just enough time for a Hail Mary attempt from junior guard Jenny Ryan. But when the clock ran out, the scoreboard read 65-63.
Even lady luck couldn’t stop the Spartans.
“We had a wide-open shot,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth, “If we made that shot, it would have been on the other hand, but we didn’t make it. I thought we played really well. I don’t think that there’s much else that we could have done.
“Sure, we can look back to a specific turnover or a missed shot early on. We can beat that dead horse and ask ourselves, ‘what if?’ but at the end of the day, (Michigan State is) a great team and they played a great game.”
No matter how “great” of a game the match-up was, it was without a doubt a dramatic one. The event played out like a soap opera, only with more knock-down, drag-out moments — the kind reserved for the NHL.
In the first four minutes, Michigan State went on a shooting spree with an 11-0 run. Three minutes later, the Wolverines tied it up at 15. After an unproductive first half, the Spartans’ Lykendra Johnson — last year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year — woke up in the second for an aggressive back-and-forth with junior center Rachel Sheffer. Sheffer racked up 13 points and three blocks for the Wolverines.
In spite of everything, the Wolverines still found themselves up by five points with 5:30 left on the clock.
The last five minutes was a dead heat between Michigan’s power pair, Boylan and Sheffer, and Michigan State’s, Johnson and Poole. Then came the open shot, and the rest was history.
“It didn’t feel good going off my hand,” Boylan said. “But you have to take that shot. When you’re wide open at the end of the game, you don’t know if you’ll get another chance. You got to put it up. I just couldn’t get it to go in.”
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant knew that if the shot had fallen, it would have been a long bus ride home.
“I wasn’t pleased that Boylan had that open of a look,” Merchant said. “We dodged a bullet, obviously.”
And yes, Borseth was disappointed, but Boylan was the last person he was going to condemn for the loss. He knows that they couldn’t have got as close as they did without her leadership — and the 22 points she scored didn’t hurt either.
“Courtney plays a lot of tough games for us,” Boylan said. “We put a lot of things on her shoulders down the stretch, whether it’s off the ball screen or one on one. Based on her stature, you wouldn’t assume that she’s going to be the one to hurt you with a turn-around jumper down in the lane, but she’s shown that it’s her forte. She played extremely well tonight.”