EAST LANSING – The rims at the Breslin Center are regulation-sized – two basketballs wide and 10 feet above the floor.
But for the Michigan women’s basketball team Sunday, the rims couldn’t have seemed much bigger than Fisher-Price miniature hoops.
Michigan’s 45-40 loss to Michigan State (10-8 Big Ten, 22-13 overall) in the Elite Eight of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament wasn’t pretty.
The Wolverines (9-9, 19-14) shot just 4-for-33 from 3-point range, their worst shooting percentage from deep all season.
“We didn’t have good shots,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “Did we even get any shots off? We’re shooting the ball from, goodness, 24 feet from the basket just for the sake of shooting it, as opposed to getting some type of penetration and get a kickout.”
Thanks to Michigan State’s 2-3 zone with 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan in the center, the Wolverines’ best shot at scoring was from behind the arc. But Michigan’s inability to penetrate forced it to settle for poor shots.
Rivalry renewed: For the past four years, the average margin of victory between these intrastate rivals has been 23 points. All of those games were Michigan losses.
Michigan went 1-2 against the Spartans this year with each game decided by an average of six points.
With the Wolverines finally keeping up with their intrastate foe, the rivalry seems more than renewed.
“We’re matching up with them a lot better this year,” junior Jessica Minnfield said. “We’re working harder.”
Late bloomer: Before Michigan’s Feb. 17 game against Indiana, junior Ashley Jones had played just 21 minutes through 23 games, despite her enthusiasm on the bench. But after watching Sunday’s game, that seems hard to believe.
Jones was the Wolverines’ best weapon off the bench as a hard-nosed defender, excellent rebounder and an inside presence on offense.
Her scoring (3.6 per game) and rebounding (2.1 per game) have more than doubled since the game against the Hoosiers.
“She’s come a long way this year,” Borseth said. “She was one of those kids that always came to the gym and worked hard. I’m glad to see that she got her chance to play at the end of the year and did as well as she did.”
Jones’s late-season success makes her a frontrunner to take a starting job next year from one of the team’s two departing seniors. Minnfield, Krista Phillips and Carly Benson will likely stay in the starting lineup. Jones, freshman Veronica Hicks, junior Stephany Skrba and one of the incoming freshman will compete for the remaining two spots.