In keeping with the saying “”you play like you practice,”” the Michigan women”s basketball team had a horrible practice on Saturday and it showed yesterday.
Despite the Wolverines” 74-67 win against Northwestern, they failed to look like a team attempting to make a run at postseason play. Yesterday, Michigan let a team that had lost just one Big Ten game by fewer than 10 points this season stick around until the very end.
“We were kind of worried (Saturday),” junior center LeeAnn Bies said. “We had a bad practice and our coaches were on us, and we thought we could turn it around, but we played like we practiced.”
Michigan”s superior talent showed throughout, but whenever Michigan seemed to make a run, Northwestern clawed back into it thanks to the stellar play of star freshmen Sarah Kawanski and Melissa Culver.
Michigan and Northwestern traded basket for basket in the opening minutes of the second half. Kawanski”s height advantage over Bies and Culver”s occasional 3-pointer kept the Wildcats in the game until right before the 12:00 media timeout, when Northwestern coach June Olkowski pulled them both out to get them rest before the final stretch. Then Michigan made a quick run to extend its lead to eight and Northwestern was never able to come back.
But for a team that has failed to win a Big Ten game this millennium (the Wildcats” last conference win came against Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament back in March of 2000), Northwestern was just thrilled to even compete with Michigan.
“We actually made another coach coach,” Olkowski said.
That”s probably why Michigan coach Sue Guevara was not happy with Michigan”s performance after the Wolverines played so well in their win against Iowa on Thursday night. In fact, if Northwestern had not committed 20 turnovers and missed so many shots in the first half, the Wildcats might have left with their first win in Crisler since 1996.
“It was a performance that, unfortunately, I saw yesterday,” Guevara said. “Everyone in America knows that you play like you practice, and what is a little discouraging to me is that we practiced pretty well before the Iowa game. And you want to keep building on that, you want to take a step forward.”
Although the Wolverines had four scorers in double figures, they were outrebounded by the Wildcats 39-36, despite their superior strength in the interior.
“They got a lot of team rebounds,” Bies said. “And that”s just us not grabbing in, balls going out of bounds and loose balls.”
While the team improved its shooting and cut down its turnovers, Guevara griped about the continued lack of leadership.
Despite the way that Michigan seems to find a big time scorer each night Bies scored 36 at Illinois and Jennifer Smith put in 26 points and 19 rebounds against Iowa the Wolverines still have no one to lead them when they are down or in a tight contest. That is going to have to change if Michigan wants to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan has the week off before it plays at Ohio State next Sunday.