It may be the holiday season, but the Michigan women’s basketball team was in no mood for giving against No. 24 Boston College on Wednesday night.
In fact, the Wolverines preferred to steal.
“I guess you steal some (wins) and you give some away,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said after the game. “Tonight, I thought we stole one.”
After trading the lead 12 times during the second half, the Wolverines finally pulled away in the last two minutes to snag a 68-55 win against the visiting Eagles (10-1). It was Michigan’s first win against a ranked opponent this season.
But the game was much closer than the final score indicates. In fact, it was the Wolverines (7-5) who looked like they might get blown out early.
Boston College came out firing, taking an early 15-6 lead behind the hot shooting of sophomore guard Kerri Shields and senior center Carolyn Swords. The two accounted for 13 of the Eagles’ first 15 points in the game.
The 6-foot-6 Swords, who leads the nation with a 75-percent field goal percentage, looked like she would dominate the post after she converted a couple of easy buckets inside against Michigan’s smaller post players. And with the hot shooting of Shields to counter Swords’ post play, the Wolverines appeared to be in some trouble.
But Michigan didn’t panic. After Boston College increased their lead to 10 with just under 10 minutes to play in the opening half, the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to just one. Sophomore Kate Thompson hit a 3-pointer to start the run for Michigan and she capped it off with a jumper inside with eight minutes to go.
After the teams traded leads four times in the final five minutes of the first half, sophomore Sam Arnold drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Wolverines a 33-31 lead at the break.
But sophomore Rachel Sheffer had the biggest hand in keeping Michigan in the game. Sheffer, 6-foot-1, scored 11 points in the first half and guarded the much over-sized Swords in the post for the majority of the game.
“She’s undersized, so that really puts her at a disadvantage playing against someone that’s 6-6,” Borseth said. “But I thought she did a great job. She blocked a couple of shots. She’s got really good feet, and she works hard at it.”
Borseth knew that the first five minutes coming out of the half would be key. The Wolverines could show that they really believed they could win this game or they could back down like they had in the past and give Boston College control of the game.
Michigan chose to believe.
After the Eagles scored the first two buckets of the second half to retake the lead, the Wolverines came right back with jumpers from sophomore Jenny Ryan and senior Veronica Hicks to snag the lead back.
“This was the first time all season that I really felt passionate that we weren’t going to lose,” Ryan said. “Just looking at each other, we knew we weren’t going to lose this game.”
But for a span that started at the 17-minute mark and ended with just over five minutes left in the game, the teams exchanged leads an astonishing 12 times. Neither team could run away with it.
That is, until junior forward Carmen Reynolds got hot.
After missing her first five 3-point attempts to start the game, Reynolds hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 left to play, giving Michigan a four-point lead. Boston College responded with a 3-pointer of its own, but Reynolds came right back down the court and drilled another to bump the lead back up to four.
After an Eagle free throw, Reynolds responded again and stuck a dagger into any Boston College comeback hopes with her third straight bomb. It gave the Wolverines a 6-point lead with just over a minute to play.
“From Carmen’s perspective, I think she felt like she was 0-for-December, especially since she hadn’t hit any in the last couple of games,” Borseth said. “But we know she can shoot, and she buried those last three at the right time.”
From there, all Michigan had to do was hit its free throws to ice the game. The Wolverines went 8-9 from the charity stripe in the final minute and finally ran away with the victory.
With the Big Ten season starting next week against No. 10 Ohio State, this was a win that was greatly needed for Michigan.
“Going against any ranked team, you get up for it,” Ryan said. “We’re used to it by now, and we just wanted to get a good win under our belt, especially for these fans around Christmas.”