INDIANAPOLIS – With 2:46 remaining in the second half, Michigan
senior center LeeAnn Bies dove out of bounds for a loose ball and
called timeout in mid-air to save the possession for the
Wolverines.

Never mind the fact Michigan was up 77-52 against Illinois at
the time.

In what could have been her last game with the Maize and Blue,
Bies paced the Wolverines with 21 points – her highest total since
Dec. 21 – as No. 11 seed Michigan shocked Illinois 83-59 yesterday
in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.

After finding herself coming off the bench and seeing limited
playing time in recent games, Bies managed to stay out of foul
trouble and went 8-of-10 from the floor.

“It helps when your first couple of baskets go in,” Bies said.
“I started to feel it and gained confidence in my shot.”

Bies was not the only one feeling it last night, as the
Wolverines (3-13 Big Ten, 13-15 overall) shot 57.4 percent on the
night, their second highest mark of the season. Junior forward
Jennifer Smith shot 7-of-13 from the field for a team high 22
points, and freshman guard Niki Reams only missed once, finishing
7-of-8 for 17 points.

“Our dribble-drive pull-up was there, and we were making layups
tonight,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “It was a big confidence
builder to hit those shots.”

Michigan was assisted by the Illini going ice cold in the middle
of the second half, as Illinois (9-7, 17-11) went scoreless for
more than seven minutes, and Michigan – usually on the receiving
end of such a drought – ran away with the game on a 23-0 run over
that span.

“It seemed like it went on forever,” Illini forward Cindy Dallas
said. “When a team gets on a run like that, you have to stop the
bleeding, and we didn’t.”

The two players most responsible for the bleeding were the twin
towers of Bies and Smith. Although this team was supposed to rely
heavily on the combined play of both players all season, it was the
first time the two scored over 20 points in the same game.

“It’s always important to play a strong game in the post,” said
Smith, an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection. “Bies and I have
worked together for three years, and we know where to look for each
other.”

Along with dominating the post, Michigan’s backcourt did a solid
job of controlling the tempo against a team that likes to run. The
last time these two teams met in Ann Arbor, Michigan turned the
ball over a season-high 29 times in an embarrasing 89-57 loss. Last
night, Michigan turned the ball over just 13 times, while the
guards dished out 17 assists.

“Everyone out there was hitting their shots, so I just wanted to
make sure we didn’t have any turnovers on offense and just got the
ball down the court,” point guard Rachael Carney said.

Michigan faces No. 3 seed Purdue (12-4, 23-5) tonight at 8:30
p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit. The Boilers beat Michigan, 69-52, in
their only meeting this year. Despite Michigan entering the game as
the underdog – no 11th seed has advanced past the second round of
the tournament, and Michigan hasn’t beaten Purdue in its last eight
tries – it isn’t worried about the odds.

“We like being the underdog,” Smith said. “With no pressure on
us, we can go out and play as hard as we can.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.