Two halves. Two 11-point runs. And now, two straight losses for the Michigan women’s basketball team.
No. 25 Nebraska strung together 11-point streaks early in both halves to effectively put the game out of the Wolverines’ reach. Riding the runs, the Cornhuskers rolled to an 87-47 victory at home in the Devaney Center Saturday.
Seconds into the game, junior Janelle Cooper hit a jump-shot to put the Wolverines up 2-0.
But it was the only lead Michigan would hold against a hot Nebraska team that played tough on both sides of the court.
The Cornhuskers (7-2) immediately answered Michigan with 11 straight points in the first three minutes of the game.
And the first three minutes after halftime were just as crippling to the Wolverines as Nebraska fired off its second 11-0 run. The scoring in those six minutes combined gave the Cornhuskers a 22-2 advantage – half of Michigan’s final deficit.
Nebraska’s post play, among the fastest the Wolverines have seen all year, dominated the tempo of the game, and took Michigan out of its element.
“We’re going to have to look at the tape and see how we can get down to the post a lot sooner,” senior Kelly Helvey said. “With a week off before the next game, we’ll have a lot of time to prepare.”
The Cornhuskers’ speed posed a problem all night for the Wolverines. The first half saw 10 uncontested Nebraska layups, mainly because of quick post players’ ability to run the floor.
Freshman center Krista Phillips, who wasn’t familiar with the quick style of play, struggled to adjust to the Cornhuskers’ post players.
Coming off her biggest performance of the season against Miami (Ohio) when she recorded a season high in points (21), Phillips was held in check by the stingy Nebraska defense, scoring just four points.
“We’re not a great post-passing team,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said through the athletic department. We’re not getting the ball down low when it’s really easy for them to possess. Nebraska played behind Krista and tried to body her out of the lane. Krista would have to kick the ball out, and not a lot of great things came from that.”
Michigan’s turnover troubles continued as well, losing the ball a combined 58 times in the last three games.
While the Wolverines broke Nebraska’s full-court press all night, once they got behind the press, the ball became harder to hang onto.
After committing 15 turnovers in the first half, Michigan (6-5) finished with 23 on the night.
“When we got past their pressure and had an advantage on offense, that’s when we’d turn the ball over,” Burnett said through the athletic department. “Nebraska did a good job of pressuring our guards in the first half. We’d pick up our dribble and get ourselves into trouble.”
The loss adds to Michigan’s 21-game losing streak to ranked teams, which now spans over four seasons. Michigan’s last win over a ranked team was Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2004 against No. 12 Minnesota.
With just two nonconference games remaining before Big Ten play, the Wolverines will look to make some tune-ups in home games against Dartmouth and St. Bonaventure.
“We have to keep coming together on defense, execute better and cut down on turnovers,” Helvey said. “We’re going to be on a mission these next two games. We just have to come out and get a couple of victories.”