With 3:47 left in the first half, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth glared at the the Crisler Arena scoreboard.
His team had just 19 points, and was trailing Penn State by eight.
“I thought, wow, we got to get out of this funk somehow,” Borseth said.
In the first half, Michigan struggled offensively, driving to the basket only to miss one easy shot after another.
“It was horrific,” Borseth said. “We didn’t seem to have any rhythm.”
The Wolverines shot a mediocre 9-of-27 from the floor in the first half, but kept it close with four 3-pointers.
To add to Michigan’s shooting woes, Penn State made eight of its first ten 10 shots.
But Penn State managed just three baskets in the rest of the half.
While Borseth stewed about the score, junior Carly Benson broke the Wolverines scoring funk with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Feeding off that momentum, junior Jessica Minnfield drove to the paint on the next two possessions, drawing fouls and making all four free throws.
“The first half was awful,” Benson said. “When we finally started to pull things together a bit, it gave us a little confidence, that we could actually make a shot tonight and pull this out.”
The Wolverines went into halftime trailing 27-26.
“To go into halftime down by one, after that first half performance, when everyone thought this game is over, we were pretty lucky,” Borseth said
Preparation is everything: After losing to the Lady Lions in State College Jan. 20, Borseth learned his lesson. He wouldn’t let Penn State’s strong backcourt control the pace.
The Wolverine defense disrupted Penn State’s flow by deflecting passes and playing physical down low, preventing the Lady Lions from easily slashing to the paint.
“We made some things more difficult for them,” Borseth said. “We didn’t let them get the ball at point blank range where they were getting the ball before. We took them out of the things they were doing.”
Early in the season, Michigan didn’t prepare for its opponents. Instead, Borseth figured it would be enough if the team executed the gameplan.
“We let teams run what they wanted to run, and sat back and hoped that we could rebound it,” Borseth said. “This game, we tried to take them out of their stuff.”
Benson’s scoring streak: Benson is quickly becoming the Wolverine’s offensive leader. The junior forward scored more than 10 points for the sixth straight game.
She went 8-for-12 from the field, leading the team with 18 points.
Last season, Benson was known for her shooting ability. But this season, she has focused on being an all-around player.
“Carly’s going to be a major player for this team for the next two years,” sophomore Krista Phillips said. “She has so many strengths and teams that scout us realize that. They take away her 3-point shot, and she’ll drive to the basket.”