Xavier’s 6-foot-5 senior Amber Harris got the ball on a fast break, with no one between her and the basket. She took a gigantic step forward and lept. Harris cocked the ball back and tried to slam it home, but was stopped by the front rim. Instantly, she got the rebound and went back up with it, drawing the foul. She made both her free throws. She missed the dunk, but she was able to get points from her effort regardless.

It was that kind of night for the Michigan women’s basketball team.

The Wolverines (1-1) played valiantly, sticking with the fifth-ranked Musketeers for most of the game, but eventually fizzled out, losing 85-76 at Crisler Arena.

They led for most of the first half, staying neck and neck with a much taller and experienced Xavier team behind the incredible shooting from senior Veronica Hicks and junior Carmen Reynolds.

According to sophomore Jenny Ryan, Xavier has, “the best four and five combo in the nation,” with Harris and senior Ta’Shia Phillips anchoring the post. Michigan avoided going down low in the first half, shooting mid-range jumpers and making six 3-pointers. The Wolverines neutralized the two-headed beast in the post for the most part and made Xavier play the fast-paced type of game they wanted to play.

But the second half was a different story. Xavier (2-0) couldn’t miss a shot, and Michigan went on a cold stretch it couldn’t afford. Its defense was solid, but not good enough for the potent Musketeer offense.

“We did a great job of putting hands on the shot, but they did a great job of making them,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said after the game. “Credit to them to be able to shoot that way.”

Michigan looked like it was in serious trouble with about 12 minutes left in the game, down by 14 and struggling to do anything offensively. Instead of losing their composure though, the young Wolverines showed a great deal of poise by going on a 15-3 run to get the lead down to just two with seven minutes to play.

“We could have easily started hanging our heads and gave up and gotten blown out by 20 or 30, but we decided, ‘no,’ ” Hicks said. “Before you know it, we’re on a run and we’re back to doing what we know how to do and the lead is down to two. So I think for our team, that was a big step.”

Things were looking positive for the Wolverines down the stretch, but the height of the Musketeers roster was too much to handle. Xavier seemed to grab every missed shot, and the Wolverine offense became “stagnant,” according to Borseth.

Phillips and Harris combined to score 34 points, and even when they weren’t scoring they were able to get the ball out to sharpshooter Katie Rutan. With the Michigan defense having to collapse on the post, Rutan used the extra space to score 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. Incredibly enough, she didn’t attempt a shot inside the arc.

Even though they didn’t come away with the win, the Wolverines may build on this game. They played extremely well against one of the best teams in the country, and the experience gained from playing a team so talented cannot be discounted. Hicks scored 22 points to lead the team, but the play of Reynolds and Ryan was most encouraging for the rest of the season, especially with the brutal Big-Ten schedule upcoming.

“I think for our team, that was a big step,” Hicks said. “ We just have to keep putting those pieces together.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.