With more than a minute to go in Sunday’s women’s basketball game against Michigan State, Michigan freshman forward Ta’Shia Walker brought the ball to the 3-point line with the Wolverines trailing 68-60. After executing a perfect ball fake, she drove down the line for what should have been an easy jumper. But the shot rimmed out, and Michigan State took possession.

This offensive series was indicative of the whole game for Michigan in its 70-60 loss to No. 10 Michigan State. The Wolverines created opportunities and for a half, gave the Spartans all they could handle, but ultimately were outplayed.

“We didn’t want to just compete, we wanted to get this one,” Burnett said. “There are no moral victories. You either win or you lose.”

Heading into halftime, Michigan State held a slim 35-34 lead over Michigan. The young Wolverines matched the Spartans point for point in a first half that saw 10 lead changes and three ties. Walker and freshman guard Jessica Starling spurred Michigan (0-2 Big Ten, 4-9 overall), combining for 18 points before halftime. Starling emerged as the third scoring option — behind senior forward Tabitha Pool and Walker — the Wolverines were looking for during the nonconference games.

“I came to play, and I took it upon myself that we do need a third scorer,” Starling said.

In fact, she even said that if she would have taken Michigan’s earlier opponents as seriously as she did Michigan State (1-0 Big Ten, 12-1), the outcomes may have been different.

“I think we would have won more ballgames,” Starling said.

Led by Starling’s three 3-pointers, the Wolverines were able to keep the game close by connecting on 7 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half. Michigan’s shooting stifled Michigan State’s zone defense.

“I thought, in the first half, we might have played as well against a zone as we have all season,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “We have not seen a lot of matchup zone, but we really played well against that in the first half.”

But Michigan could not keep that momentum in the beginning of the second half. The Wolverines were held scoreless in the first five minutes of the half, and Michigan State outscored Michigan 17-4 in the opening eight minutes of the second stanza.

“We get everyone’s best game,” Michigan State coach Joanne McCallie said. “I’m proud that our team could handle a very average-to-poor first half for us and come back out and re-focus.”

Re-focusing helped Michigan State stretch its lead to as much as to 17 points with 7:23 left. Junior guard Lindsay Bowen had 16 points; and junior forward Liz Shimek added 13 points and 14 rebounds to lead the charge for Michigan State.

Throughout the second half, Michigan’s hot 3-point shooting cooled, and the Wolverines settled for deep threes to try to get back in the game.

“Our dribble penetrators do not understand yet how to penetrate versus a zone,” Burnett said. “We went a little bit too much to the open three, and we weren’t going to the line and getting rebounds.”

But the Wolverines did not surrender the game easily to the Spartans. Michigan made 3-pointers on four of five possessions after Michigan State took a 64-48 lead with 6:07 left. Freshman guard Krista Clement began the 3-point barrage with one from the right side. The Wolverines continued to fire away with two in a row from Starling, and when Pool nailed a three from the top of the key, cut Michigan State’s lead to 66-60.

But the experienced Spartans weathered the hot shooting. Michigan State clamped down on defense and held Michigan scoreless in the last 3:24 of the game.

“We made some defensive adjustments during our late run where we needed a stop, but there were a couple possessions where we gave up some really easy opportunities that when you are trying to get back into a game you can’t do,” Burnett said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.