Imagine you’ve had 15 papers in the past two months and you didn’t pass 14 of them. You wouldn’t feel too great; your confidence would be a bit shaken.

That has been the situation for the Michigan women’s basketball team over the past two months. The Wolverines have fought hard night in and night out, yet they’ve won just once in fifteen games since Dec. 11.

But one thing can be said about Michigan’s troubles — the Wolverines have given their best effort every time they have taken the court.

“We have told our kids that we want them to play hard all the way through (0:00), and they are doing it,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said after her team’s 76-55 loss to then No. 14 Minnesota on Feb. 6.

Said sophomore Kelly Helvey: “We’re just trying to play hard. We know that we’re down, but we’re not going to be out. That’s one thing about our team, we are never going to quit.”

Going into the season, Michigan knew that the year would be difficult. With seven freshmen accounting for 70 percent of the roster, the Wolverines skipped the introductory courses and moved right to the 400-level courses on the court.

“I said really early in the year that we have to accept the fact that we are young and never use it as an excuse,” Burnett said after her team’s 76-61 loss to No. 23 Penn State on Feb. 3. “Our team is what it is, and we are expecting our young players to play like veterans, and we’re coaching that way.”

Although they will not make excuses, the Wolverines have a brutal schedule, taking on some of the toughest teams in the country every week. Michigan plays Big Ten bottom-dwellers Northwestern, Indiana and Wisconsin just once and must face four top-25 ranked Big Ten teams twice. According to the RPI rankings, Michigan has the 27th toughest schedule in the nation — the type of schedule only played by the nation’s top squads. Hawaii and Northwestern are the only two teams with tougher schedules than the Wolverines that have records under .500.

Mistakes come with youth and tough competition. Turnovers, especially, have hampered the Wolverines, but the team is still trying throughout its games. Despite trailing by huge margins in the second half of some games, Michigan has found a way to trim leads to single digits in most contests.

The Penn State game epitomized the season for the Wolverines. Michigan battled the Lady Lions throughout the first half, shutting down Penn State’s best player, Tanisha Wright, and took a 28-25 lead at halftime. But when the second frame started, Michigan surrendered 51 second-half points, and Penn State shot 50 percent from the field. The Lady Lions led by as many as 22 points, but Michigan continued to work and trimmed the lead to eight. Instead of packing the game in, Michigan forced turnovers and tried to keep Penn State on its heels. But just as the season has gone, Michigan fell behind by too much and could not pull out a win.

“We’re right at the edge,” forward Ta’Shia Walker said after the Penn State loss. “We just need to find that niche to win. If we can break that little barrier, we will be fine.”

The silver lining in all the struggles for Michigan is that it can only get better. Going back to her tenure at Southwest Missouri State, Burnett has a track record of turning around programs, and the recruiting class for next year is supposed to be one of the best in the Big Ten. The seven freshmen and sophomore Helvey have seen the lowest of the low. With their experience they should be able to bounce back quicker, and soon they’ll have Michigan at the top of the Big Ten standings instead of the bottom.

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