The Michigan women’s basketball team continues to push the past further and further away.

It wasn’t enough for the Wolverines to play in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament for the first time since 2002.

Last night, they became the first team in the program’s 35-year history to reach the third round of a postseason tournament other than the Big Ten Tournament.

Thanks to senior Janelle Cooper’s 22 points and a 14-0 run to start the game, Michigan easily took down Virginia Commonwealth, 75-57, at Crisler Arena last night.

“My teammates did a very good job of rotating the ball and getting it to me,” Cooper said. “I was just happy that I made some shots today. Hopefully, that continues for the rest of this NIT.”

The co-captain had a near-perfect performance, shooting 7-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from three-point range. She also knocked down all three of her free throws.

Despite not playing a game for three weeks, Michigan (9-9 Big Ten, 18-13 overall) combined to shoot 13-for-22 from behind the arc.

“We were still in the gym even though we weren’t playing games,” Cooper said. “I’m not really surprised. We have pretty good shooters on our team.”

Cooper ignited the first-half run that put the Rams (13-5 Colonial Athletic Association, 26-8) behind by double-digits just three minutes into the game.

Cooper connected on her first three-pointer and one minute later, junior Carly Benson did the same. Benson hit another from behind the arc and Cooper responded with a traditional three-point play just seconds later.

After a field goal by junior Jessica Minnfield, the Wolverines led 14-0 a little more than four minutes into the game.

“I think a lot of us were pumped and geeked and were ready to go,” junior Ashley Jones said. “That 14-0 run at the beginning was just us being ready.”

Despite the team’s best shooting performance of the season, Michigan’s usual weaknesses were still on display.

The Wolverines were outshot, outrebounded on the offensive glass and committed twice as many turnovers as the Rams. Earlier in the season, that would have spelled disaster for the team.

And even though Michigan started the second half with four straight turnovers, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth and the Wolverines proved they wouldn’t let their normal flaws get in the way of victory.

Michigan took its fewest shots from the field all season (37) but responded by shooting 62 percent from the field, its best shooting performance of the season.

Michigan’s strong play on the defensive end forced VCU to shoot just 30 percent from the field and created numerous three-on-two fast break opportunities that led to wide-open shots. Cooper led the way with four assists.

“We usually don’t get that many assists,” Borseth said. “That’s a pretty big figure for us.”

After last night’s victory, the Wolverines have their sights set on one goal.

“We have our eye on the prize,” Jones said. “We want to win the championship.”

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