The Michigan women’s basketball team was up by 14 points with just 14 seconds remaining in its game against Indiana at Crisler Arena yesterday, and it was safe to say they would come out victorious.
But that didn’t stop senior Krista Phillips from diving for a loose ball when freshmean guard Dayeesha Hollins overthrew a pass to Phillips. The result of the hustle play wouldn’t change the final result, but Phillips dove regardless.
Even though the ball rolled out of bounds and the effort failed, the Wolverines certainly did not, notching a 70-56 win and showing their dedication along the way.
“I was laughing for the last 15 seconds of the game,” sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds said. “We are taught to always dive for the ball, give it your all and grab it. So that’s what she did, even though she wasn’t too close to getting it. Everyone was laughing.”
Michigan (3-6 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) hasn’t had much to laugh about recently. The win ended a three-game losing streak and was the team’s first against Indiana in six tries.
But when the Wolverines were down 27-22 at halftime, Michigan went to the locker room with expectations of a victory kept in check.
The Wolverines are all-too familiar with mediocre first-half performances and they weren’t going to settle for another close loss, especially after losing their last two games by a combined five points.
In their last game against Indiana (4-5, 11-9) less than two weeks ago, Michigan was down by as much as 11 in the first half before they came back in the second. But when a layup at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime rolled out of the rim, the Wolverines dropped the comeback effort.
And this time, it was halftime modifications that saved the Wolverines from another loss.
“(At halftime) we decided to push the ball, penetrate and keep the lane open,” Hollins said. “We had noticed that the lane was pretty much wide open and our goal (in the second half) was to penetrate. For me to get myself involved was easy when the lane was wide open.”
Hollins did just that. And with no one in the Indiana post to block her under the basket, Hollins was able to score 6 points in the paint in the second half.
Fastbreaks by Hollins and junior guard Veronica Hicks within a minute of each other opened the second half and set the pace for the remaining 20 minutes. Michigan went on a 20-7 run to take an eight-point lead. The Wolverines never looked back from there, improving their lead to 20 with two minutes remaining.
“In the locker room we all looked at each other and had kind of a ‘not again’ moment,” freshman guard Jenny Ryan said. “We were like, ‘We’ve been through this, we know what it’s like to lose and we don’t want to do it again.’ You could sense it that we just weren’t losing this game.”
Michigan’s lead ballooned with help from Hicks, who got hot from behind the arc in the second half. She finished the game with a game-high 24 points, 20 in the second half. Reynolds led the team in 3-pointers with four, two of which were Michigan’s only 3-pointers in the first half.
Ryan picked up her game in the second half as well. After a couple of misread passes in the first, she finished with a game-high 11 rebounds.
“It was just one thing after another,” Ryan said. “Once it’s done it’s done, I can’t go back and fix it. So when I came out in the second half I knew the first half was over and I just wanted to play from there.”
With their record and tenth-place ranking in the Big Ten, Michigan must string together a few consecutive victories in order to entertain thoughts of postseason play.
But with the pressure off, the Wolverines can just look ahead one game at a time.
“Words cannot describe that we are back on a winning streak,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully we will be able to continue that in Illinois.”