It’s make or break time for the Michigan women’s basketball team.
Win the next four and there is a good chance the Wolverines will earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Lose the next four and it’s the NIT – or maybe no tournament at all.
“Everything that we’ve accomplished so far goes right down the drain if we don’t do well in the last four games,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “That’s the good news – we’re motivated to do that. The bad news is the teams we play are very good. It’s not going to be easy.”
The Wolverines (7-7 Big Ten, 14-10 overall) play four tough games in the next 11 days against Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Michigan is 1-2 against those teams this season.
It would be 0-3 if it wasn’t for sophomore center Krista Phillips. Her miracle 40-foot 3-pointer sent the Jan. 17 contest against the Badgers into overtime, where Michigan went on to win 79-73.
On Jan. 10 in West Lafayette, the Wolverines weren’t so lucky. They displayed one of their common end-of-game collapses after leading by one with less than two minutes to play. The Boilermakers scored the final six points on their way to victory, 56-51.
Although tonight’s rematch is at Crisler Arena, home-court advantage won’t be enough to take down Purdue (10-5, 14-12).
“They’re a lot better than they were when they played us the first time,” Borseth said. “They’re probably the most improved team, at least from what I can see on videotape.”
The Boilermakers are led by junior Lakisha Freeman (13 points and 6 rebounds per game). Her emergence has made Purdue more athletic and more aggressive since the two teams last clashed.
The possibility of playing into March may be new for the Wolverines, but it isn’t a novelty for their coach. In his 25 seasons before coming to Michigan, Borseth made the NCAA Tournament 14 times. No one on the Michigan roster has ever played past the Big Ten Tournament.
“You don’t know until you get in there,” said Borseth when asked how he will make sure his team is mentally prepared for the final four games. “Every game you just got to get a little better. If you get one on the chin the first time, you got to find a way the second time.”