The Michigan women’s basketball team seems to be allergic to the top 25.
The week of Dec. 5, the Wolverines (2-2 Big Ten, 13-4 overall) were ranked 26th. Later in the week, Michigan dropped the Washtenaw County rivalry game to Eastern Michigan, 77-64.
This week, the Wolverines garnered four votes, putting them in 31st. And just like before, Michigan couldn’t pull through.
This time, they fell to No. 25 Penn State.
The Lady Lions (2-2, 12-4) outhustled, outshot, and outplayed the Wolverines, while poor shooting and defense plagued Michigan. Penn State won, 78-63.
After shooting 54 percent to beat No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday, the Wolverines struggled Thursday night, shooting just 34 percent from the field, including an abysmal 8-for-25 from long range. Senior guard Courtney Boylan, the team’s leading scorer with 14 points per game, was cold in the first half and finished with just 10 points. And senior forward Carmen Reynolds shot just 2-for-10 from the field.
Even though shots weren’t falling, junior guard Jenny Ryan believes the team was getting all the right looks on offense.
“We’re just trying to make things happen,” Ryan said. “When you go down early, you want to get it all back in a hurry. I think we got the shots, but they just weren’t falling for us tonight. We had a lot of layups, got what we wanted, but it didn’t go in. I can’t say our offense wasn’t on, but it just wasn’t our night.”
Michigan’s bench tried to end the shooting struggles, but their efforts weren’t enough. Junior forward Kate Thompson was the Wolverines’ leading scorer with 18 points, and freshman guard Nicole Elmblad added seven.
On the other hand, shots were falling for Penn State. The Lady Lions shot 55 percent from the field and hit 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. The hot shooting was led by reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Maggie Lucas. Lucas, who set the Big Ten record for most 3-pointers in a season last year, lit up the floor. She finished with 22 points, nine of which came from beyond the arc.
“She’s a shooter, she can penetrate, she can hit the pull-up,” Ryan said. “That’s her job on the floor. It helps her when her teammates are hitting shots, because it opens it up for her and that’s what was happening (Thursday night). She got on a roll early, and that’s not a good time for us.”
Lucas’ ability to get open was aided by her teammates’ strong performances. Guards Zhaque Gray and Alex Bentley were closely guarded by the Wolverines, which left Lucas wide open. Though Lucas finished as Penn State’s leading scorer, Gray and Bentley scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Lady Lions also dominated in transition. They scored 24 points off of 13 Michigan turnovers. Ryan, the Wolverines’ defensive spark, sat out much of the first half with two fouls. With Ryan on the bench, Michigan struggled to contain Penn State’s transition game.
“Every time we missed a layup, they made a layup,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “We missed a lot of layups. They’re very good in transition, that’s what they do. They have a point guard (Gray) who can run fast and outrun anybody down the court. (We wanted) to get two people back and double-team her, and midway through we did a good job.”
With Minnesota up next, the Wolverines will try to put this loss behind them.
“Minnesota is really tough,” Borseth said. “They’re physical, strong, very aggressive. A lot of bumping and shoving in that game, and we have to be ready for that.”