INDIANAPOLIS — If the Michigan women’s basketball team were a television series, it would have been cancelled long ago. The plot never changed and every game for the Wolverines this season seemed to go the same way. Michigan would compete for a good portion of the contest, but then they would fall behind by too much. But in last Thursday’s 70-42 Big Ten Tournament loss to Iowa, Michigan lost, but with a different script.

This game was much different from the previous meeting between the two teams, which took place just 10 days before. In that game, Michigan stayed with Iowa for 34 minutes, but Iowa prevailed 78-59. Although the Wolverines were within 10 points of Iowa for most of last Thursday’s game, Michigan (1-15 Big Ten, 5-23 overall) never made an offensive run. The Hawkeyes controlled the tempo and kept the Wolverines at bay.

Two free throws by freshman Ta’Shia Walker cut Iowa’s lead to nine points with under 15 minutes left in the second half, and that was as close as Michigan came.

Iowa junior guard Crystal Smith was the main reason Michigan never threatened the Hawkeyes (8-7, 20-8). After Wolverine senior BreAnne McPhilamy hit a jumper from the elbow, Smith scored 15 of Iowa’s next 20 points. She started by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers. A Becky Flippin 3-pointer temporarily stopped the 11-0 Hawkeye run, but Smith quickly reeled off nine straight points.

“I thought Crystal was very good attacking the basket tonight and taking the open three when it was there,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “I like to see the ball in Crystal’s hands. We called a play to get her an open three, and I think that really kind of ignited her.”

Even Michigan’s defensive specialist, sophomore forward Kelly Helvey, could not stop the fleet-footed Smith. Helvey and freshman forward Janelle Cooper matched up with Smith for most of the game, but Smith used her quickness on the bigger defenders.

“I was very lackadaisical,” Helvey said. “She’s a great player, and she’s very quick. It’s hard to get over screens on her. Since they’re looking down in the post, I was helping down in the post a lot, and she just got open shots.”

By the time Smith had finished her barrage, Iowa’s lead ballooned to 18, and Michigan never got back in the game.

Early on, it looked as if Iowa was going to be in for a hard-fought game. Michigan looked like it would ride the shoulders of seniors McPhilamy and Tabitha Pool, who accounted for 13 of Michigan’s first 15 points. Pool tried to drive to the basket early on, but Iowa plugged up the lane for much of the game. With the lanes clogged, McPhilamy took what she could, nailing jumpers from the elbows for most of the game in netting a career-high 12 points.

“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and I was just able to hit the shots,” McPhilamy said. “Again, it’s nice I guess, but it’s not the way we wanted it to end.”

Pool had success early in the game, making her first two jumpers, but the Hawkeyes keyed on her for the rest of the game. Each time she touched the ball, an Iowa defender swarmed her. Pool has been used to that kind of treatment this year, but this time her teammates could not pick up the slack. Iowa’s defense limited Pool to nine points on 4-for-16 shooting. With Pool struggling to score, Michigan’s offense fell apart. The Wolverines shot just 32 percent from the field, including a dismal 3-for-23 from 3-point range.

“Tab (has) gotten so much attention defensively everywhere that she is,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “In this game, I just thought Tab was brilliant of giving up a lot of her shots for other people to get shots. You know, part of the reason that BreAnne was getting some really great wide-open looks is the attention that Tabitha gets and she was finding other players.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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