MADISON —-–– For a team that has a never-say-die attitude, a 20-point deficit is not an impossible situation to overcome. While the Michigan women’s basketball team ultimately lost 79-71 against Wisconsin yesterday, the final 5:45 of the second half showed the team’s determination to never give up.
Sparked by the hot shooting of freshman point guard Becky Flippin, the Wolverines got within six in a game that looked over. Wisconsin took a 65-45 lead off a pair of senior Ebba Gebisa free throws, but Michigan was just getting started.
Flippin picked freshman Jolene Anderson’s pocket and found fellow Michigan freshman Krista Clement for an open 3-pointer. That three started a 26-point outburst for Michigan after the Wolverines had scored just 14 points in the first 14 minutes of the second half.
Flippin led the charge, connecting on three 3-pointers and dishing out two assists.
“We did a great job at the end of the game finding our shooters,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.
All season, Michigan has lacked a third scoring option behind senior Tabitha Pool and freshman Ta’Shia Walker. Walker struggled throughout the game, shooting just 1-for-7 from the field. But, this time, Flippin picked up the slack in the second half, netting 15 points on five 3-pointers. Nine of Flippin’s 15 points came during the late rally.
In the first half, Michigan got 10 points from Clement, even as she looked to be the third scoring option. Clement’s aggressive drives led to easy layups and open attempts for her teammates.
“I don’t think it was a plan before the game, but sometimes defenses are different, and that’s what the defense allowed us to do,” Clement said.
With the two freshmen combining for 28 points, it looks as if Michigan may play Flippin and Clement at the same time more often, as it did earlier in the season.
The same old song: A common concern for Michigan all season has been its lack of size. Yesterday’s game was no different, as Wisconsin outscored the Wolverines in the paint, 38-18.
“We’ve dealt with blocking out all year long,” Burnett said. “We’re a smaller basketball team without that height, and we believe that blocking out is a discipline. But they were hitting the glass hard.”
The Badgers used freshman Danielle Ward’s four-inch height advantage against the smaller Wolverines throughout the first half. The 6-foot-4 forward positioned well on the low block and netted eight points against Michigan’s defensive combination of Walker and senior BreAnne McPhilamy.
“The coaches said to just go play and not worry about messing up,” Ward said. “Basically, I just take on coaches personality and, most of all, get the ball back.”
Ward was not the only Badger to use her height against Michigan. The 6-foot-3 Ebba Gebisa pounded the low post for eight of her 18 points. Gebisa’s superior size also forced Michigan to foul her. She went to the free throw line 10 times and nailed all 10 of her opportunities.
The power of Pool: Tabitha Pool was just 3-for-11 from the field at halftime, but that did not hurt her confidence in the second half. Pool kept shooting and finally found her stroke. Pool hit 8-of-11 shots in the second half to help keep Michigan in the game.
Pool’s 20 second-half points and positive attitude kept the young Wolverines heads in the game.
“I was trying to just step up the intensity a little bit and get everybody else going,” Pool said.