WEST LAFAYETTE — For a young basketball team, it is important that constant improvement occurs. The Michigan women’s basketball team has lost seven games in a row and has struggled with turning the ball over and poor shooting from the field. In yesterday’s 60-43 loss to Purdue, the team shot just 28 percent while turning the ball over 25 times.
But while the team dropped to 0-4 in the Big Ten and 4-11 overall, it has seen development in its play.
In many of its previous games, including losses to Western Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State, opposing teams played different zones that affected the Wolverines’ offensive flow. Against Purdue’s man-to-man defense, Michigan was able to utilize its dribble penetration to create scoring opportunities.
“We really thought we did a great job, especially in spurts offensively, of dribble penetrating,” coach Cheryl Burnett said. “We created some really nice things for us that we haven’t done a great job up to now: dribble penetrating and making the next pass.”
With the backcourt driving to the hoop, Michigan produced easy scoring opportunities for freshman forward Ta’Shia Walker. Walker led the Wolverines with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. Many of her attempts were within a few feet of the hoop — high percentage shots that she has shown she can convert on.
Going into the season, the coaching staff knew the lack of size would hurt the team’s rebounding. But the Wolverines also figured they could improve steadily in that department through hard work and effort. And despite Purdue starting four players who measured over six feet, Michigan still out-rebounded the larger Boilermakers 35-34, including nine-to-five off the offensive glass. Three of Purdue’s offensive rebounds came on one possession in the second half.
“I thought, offensively, we rebounded really hard, more than we did before,” Walker said. “We knew that they were athletic and quite bigger than us. But rebounding is not about that. It’s about effort. We just said that everybody had to go after the boards.”
With its offense struggling, Michigan had to step up its play on defense throughout the game. For the most part, the Wolverines were able to contain Purdue, which shot 42 percent from the field.
Michigan’s smaller guards — freshmen Becky Flippin and Krista Clement — pestered Purdue’s guards all afternoon, trying to keep the ball out of the hands of sophomore forward Erin Lawless. The Wolverines contained her for most of the first half, limiting her to four points. But they couldn’t contain the 6-foot-2 forward all game, and she netted 12 points in the second half.
“I thought they did a great job getting Lawless back in the game, specifically isolating her,” Burnett said. “We allowed her to catch the ball.”
The Wolverines need a more consistent defensive showing, but yesterday’s game showed the improvement they have made over the course of the early conference season.
While Michigan ultimately lost the game, it hopes that the adjustments it made will carry over into its future games, including Tuesday’s matchup against No. 9 Ohio State.
“I think we are just progressing everyday and getting better everyday,” senior forward Tabitha Pool said.