Senior center Krista Phillips sometimes struggles to make key shots.
But not last night.
In fact, last night Phillips drained a 3-pointer with just 13 seconds remaining to the Wolverines’ 66-62 victory over No. 23 Penn State at Crisler Arena.
“I knew when they were pressuring me I was not going to get this shot out,” sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds said. “I saw KP in the corner of my eyes, so I passed it to her and when she made it, I was so happy. Coach likes us to be versatile, and it was good that KP could do that. It really helped us out.”
After Reynolds dished the ball to Phillips at the top of the arc at Crisler Arena, a record-breaking crowd of 5,926 attendees closed their eyes, crossed their fingers and prayed.
And then, it went in. And on a night where the “Biggest Losers” were the halftime entertainment, the biggest showing for a women’s basketball team in program history went absolutely wild when the Wolverines biggest player sank the teams biggest shot of the game.
Michigan (5-6 Big Ten, 13-8 overall) started off slow in the first half after letting the Nittany Lions (7-4, 15-6) go on an 11-2 run early in the contest. And the Wolverines went into halftime trailing 34-26.
Michigan struggled early. The Wolverines’ perimeter shooters, freshman guard Jenny Ryan, junior guard Veronica Hicks, and freshman Dayeesha Hollins, shot 1-for-12 going into halftime.
“(Michigan coach Kevin Borseth) wrote on the board the totals for me, Jenny, and Dayeesha combined,” Hicks said. “We were just like, wow, we can shoot way better than this.”
Michigan shot 33 percent in the first stanza compared to Penn State’s 52-percent showing. It was a combination of Michigan’s offensive woes and Penn State’s impeccable defense.
“We just never really had any rhythm in the first half,” Borseth said. “I will tell you that they are probably, in my mind, the best defensive team in the conference. If you look at their statistics they hold teams to 34 percent shooting from the floors. That’s off the charts, that’s Connecticut-type stuff.”
It may have been due to a high-charged Borseth locker room talk or a loud record-breaking crowd because it was “Pack the House” night at Crisler, but something triggered a spark and the Wolverines went on a 15-2 run to start the second half.
“I know as a basketball player you can never be defeated if there is still time on the clock,” junior guard Veronica Hicks said. “I’d rather play good late than start early and then simmer down.”
The Wolverines can credit a lot of their win to Phillips and Reynolds, well, at least more than what the stat sheet showed.
The duo set numerous screens that generated open looks from Hicks and Hollins.
“We all want to do whatever you have to do,” Hicks said. “We do a lot of things that only if you’re basketball savvy you will be able to see because they don’t show up on the stat sheet. Those are really making this team successful.”
Besides screens, drawing fouls proved to be a strength of the Wolverine offense.
Reynolds got to the line twice in the first five minutes and made all four free throws.
But the overall execution was not as much much of a strength.
The Wolverines went just 48 percent from the free throw line, missing seven down the second stretch of the game.
It was an eight year old boy that described this game best at the beginning of the second half. He was a young Michigan fan sitting with his family, all of whom seemed to be lamenting the 15-point lead that Penn State possessed at the time.
But after Hollins stole the ball, tossed a long pass off of a fast break to Hicks who finished with a layup, the mood changed.
“I smell a comeback baby,” the boy said.