There was a time earlier this season when the Michigan women’s basketball team could look at its schedule and mark off Northwestern and Wisconsin as two easy wins.
Following Sunday’s embarrassing loss to Northwestern, the Wolverines are hoping that other teams aren’t looking at their own schedules and circling Michigan as an easy ‘W.’
Following the 29-point drubbing at the hands of the Big Ten cellar-dweller Northwestern, the Wolverines (2-8 Big Ten, 11-10 overall) look to bounce back and snap their five-game losing streak tonight against Wisconsin, the eighth-ranked team in the conference.
Luckily for Michigan, it will meet a Wisconsin team that has had its own share of struggles this season. After reeling off three straight Big Ten wins – including a win over Michigan on Feb. 2 – Wisconsin has lost two straight.
The Badgers (4-7, 6-16) have struggled against the zone this season, especially against Ohio State and Penn State. Michigan should be able to exploit this weakness with the size of centers LeeAnn Bies and Jennifer Smith patrolling the middle of its 2-3 zone.
Leading the way for Wisconsin is sophomore Stephanie Rich, who has averaged 11.5 points a game despite shooting only 33 percent this year. Junior Emily Ashbaugh and senior Lello Gebisa have also contributed 9.6 points each for the Badgers.
Another factor in tonight’s matchup will be Michigan’s ability to stop Wisconsin’s scoring runs. On Sunday, the Wolverines effectively lost the game in the first half by giving up 31-straight points to Northwestern before heading into the locker room down 40-12.
While it’s impossible to eliminate runs altogether, it is important to be patient, get open looks and put points on the board to end them. Following three timeouts in a matter of six minutes on Sunday, Michigan coach Sue Guevara drew up some plays to try to get some high-percentage shots for her players. But the Wolverines couldn’t manage to stick the ball in the bucket.
“(Their run) kind of snowballed when (our) shots weren’t falling,” Guevara said. “I think we just kind of lost our confidence, and then we lost it on the defensive end, because Northwestern had a lot of wide-open shots.”
Even though things have deteriorated for Michigan, Guevara doesn’t believe her job is in jeopardy. When asked if she is concerned about her job security, Guevara replied, “No. I am not at all.”
Wisconsin coach Jane Albright knows that the Wolverines are down, but isn’t counting them out.
“I think it’s going to be a tough time to (play) them after that,” said Albright, referring to Michigan’s loss at Northwestern. “You know one of the only games Michigan State lost was at Northwestern, and you know what they did the next game? They came back and beat (No. 9) Purdue.”