Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Controlling the ball with 23 seconds remaining, the Michigan women’s basketball team had a chance to put UNLV away, just as it had its chances in a 61-60 loss to Drake last Tuesday. On a play that looked liked it was going nowhere — similar to many of the Wolverines’ offensive possessions in the second half — freshman point guard Krista Clement found sophomore Kelly Helvey under the hoop to put the Wolverines up 45-43. It was Helvey’s only field goal of the game, but she made it count.
“Coach drew up a play and we were just trying to get what we wanted,” Clement said. “We wanted to start scoring with about 12 seconds, even though it was a little later than we expected. It was one of those, ‘Oh no, oh yes,’ plays.”
Helvey was not supposed to be under the hoop on the play, but when Clement started driving down the baseline Helvey moved to the right block. As Clement got around the UNLV defender, she flipped the ball past another Lady Rebels player and Helvey hit the easy layup.
“That was pretty much it,” Clement said. “(Helvey) was in the right place at the right time.”
Michigan (3-3) controlled the game, but let UNLV rally back in a second half when the Wolverines turned the ball over 11 times and shot just 33 percent. In the first five minutes of the second half, the Lady Rebels (3-4) went on a 10-2 run to get within two of Michigan.
“It’s tough playing the second half when you have the lead and things aren’t going well and they are trying to come back,” Helvey said.
Freshman forward Katie Dierdorf came off the bench and scored three straight points to get Michigan back on track. Once UNLV’s run was stopped, the Wolverines’ stingy defense kept the Lady Rebels from seizing momentum again.
UNLV’s leading scorer, Sheena Moore, came in averaging 20 points and five rebounds per game. Moore weaved through the Michigan defense and tied the game at 43-43 with 23 seconds remaining. It proved to be the only major impact she had on the game, since she was held to nine points and one rebound, on just 4-of-17 shooting.
Freshman point guard Becky Flippin locked down on Moore all game. UNLV’s other top player, RanDee Henry, scored 16 points. She made just 5-of-12 from the field and fouled out late in the game. UNLV was able to create good opportunities for its top players but could not capitalize.
“Our players are starting to recognize our game strategy and what our preparation is,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “Becky Flippin did an absolutely exceptional job on (Moore). Tabitha Pool did a great job of strategically doing what we wanted to do to stop (Henry).”
Michigan’s lack of size hurt the team again, as UNLV out-rebounded the Wolverines 37-29. More importantly, the Lady Rebels had nine more offensive rebounds which gave them many more second-chance opportunities. But with UNLV shooting just 32 percent, it could not capitalize as it wanted to.
“We dug ourselves in a hole early, but we started playing Rebel basketball again in the second half,” UNLV coach Regina Miller said. “You lose a lot of energy playing from behind. We hurt ourselves by not making plays when we could have taken the lead.”
Michigan snapped its two-game losing streak and gained some confidence going into its game versus Eastern Michigan tomorrow night.
“We came out really flat the past couple games and lost a lot of confidence,” Burnett said. “It feels good to win a one-basket game.”