It was senior night at Crisler Center, but it wasn’t Courtney Boylan, Carmen Reynolds or Jamillya Hardley that shined.
Rather, it was Purdue senior Brittany Rayburn who controlled the game on Thursday night.
Rayburn had a game-high 15 points and got help from teammates Chantel Poston and Courtney Moses down the stretch to beat the Wolverines, 60-49.
The game was close until the final few minutes, when Rayburn scored five straight points to extend the Boilermaker lead to seven. Moses hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 10, and Michigan was forced to send Purdue to the free-throw line to try for a comeback.
The Boilermakers went 9-for-10 from the charity stripe in the second half and went 4-for-4 in the last minute to seal the game.
But besides Purdue’s final push, neither team could really find a rhythm. In the first half, Purdue struggled to make a basket in a stretch of just over four minutes, while the Wolverines had nine turnovers.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well in that stanza, but it wasn’t any better for Michigan in the second half. The Wolverines went 9-for-26, which ultimately cost them the game.
Michigan coach Kevin Borseth made it quite clear that it wasn’t turnovers or rebounds that hurt the team.
“Field-goal percentage is what this game is about,” Borseth said. “(It’s) the No. 1 thing that you look for — that’s the consistent thing of winning teams. And for us, it wasn’t. … You’re not winning many games shooting 37 percent.”
Despite poor numbers from the floor, junior center Rachel Sheffer overcame her shooting struggles and ended the night with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Reynolds, in her final home game, posted 11 points, and junior guard Jenny Ryan continued her all-around production with 10 rebounds, eight points and four steals.
The Boilermakers held Michigan to its lowest point total all season with their tough defense. Rayburn put pressure on the Wolverine guards all night and had three steals, all while commanding Purdue’s offense.
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said that down the stretch she told Rayburn to take control of the game like she’s done all season. And it worked.
Reynolds noted that a player like Rayburn isn’t going to be completely shut down. Rather, she said, you have to contain her, something the Wolverines just couldn’t seem to do.
They struggled to guard her in the final few minutes, and Borseth didn’t have an answer.
“She’s a hard player to guard,” Boylan said. “She’s extremely talented, and she hit some really tough shots off the dribble. … At the end, we missed a couple of switches, and she got a couple of open looks, and she’s going to knock those down — she’s a good player.”
NOTE: After the game, Boylan, Reynolds and Hardley were honored for their four years of work for the program. The three guards make up Borseth’s first recruiting class at Michigan.
“Those kids have meant a lot to the program,” Borseth said. “I thought they’ve changed the culture in a very positive way, in terms of their effort on the floor, in the classroom, in the community. I thought they’ve been outstanding representatives of our program and our University.”