It all looked over with just 5:35 remaining in the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 61-50 loss to Michigan State. Freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins had committed her fifth foul and was replaced by sophomore guard Courtney Boylan.

Shortly after that, the Spartans went up by 11 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, junior guard Veronica Hicks airballed, and it seemed there was nothing that could slow the Spartans down.

“We started off quickly,” Boylan said. “We played a day ago, so we were used to the court. We were just excited and ready to go. I don’t necessarily know what happened in the second half. But it wasn’t good. It was frustrating. It seems like when we tried to be aggressive we would get a foul called. But then on the other end we couldn’t do anything. They just pressure the ball very well.”

The Wolverines kept it close in the first half. They were quick out of the gate, catching Michigan State off guard. Michigan led by as many as eight points. But by halftime, Michigan State put together a full effort, going ahead 32-29.

“Offensively, we didn’t slow down as much,” Hicks said. “It was on the defensive end that we were not getting as many stops. They started getting a few more offensive rebounds, then we started getting foul calls and they were able to get to the line a lot. Our defense wasn’t getting stops.”

Senior center Krista Phillips was on top of the pack with eight points of her own in the first half. Spartan senior center Allyssa DeHaan left the game in the middle of the first half after a move from Phillips triggered a back spasm DeHaan had suffered from earlier in the week. DeHaan’s injury left Phillips as the tallest player on the court and giving the Wolverines a size advantage.

But the injury didn’t help the struggling Michigan squad as the Spartans were able to take advantage of Michigan’s foul problems. The Spartans got eight points from the charity stripe alone in the first half. And then in the second stanza, it was free throws again that doomed the Wolverines.

“It seemed like most of our starters were in foul trouble,” Boylan said. “Them getting to the line gives them huge momentum. (Dayeesha) is in there and she picks up three, then the tripping call and she’s out. (Hicks) had to sit because she had three or four fouls, and even (freshman guard) Jenny Ryan had to sit early in the game because she had some trouble.”

With the foul trouble, Michigan had to play its starters very conservatively.

And even when the Spartans missed their foul shots Michigan still couldn’t capitalize. Michigan State collected 17 offensive boards and cashed them in for 14 second-chance points. The Spartans dominated the glass all night, they beat the Wolverines 41-29 in rebounds.

“They started getting a few more offensive rebounds,” Hicks said. “They collected loose balls and offensive rebounds. When that happened that started making our offense a little more stagnant because it gave them more confidence in transitions.”

Michigan knew that rebounds would be a significant factor in the game, and that it would be hard to outrebound a more aggressive team in the Spartans.

“I think you have to be able to make some of those,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “It’s a little tougher to get to the rim obviously because they really got the gaps shrunk and they’re a lot bigger than we are, a lot more physical. They played good defense but they’re physical. You try to get open and they bump.”

The Wolverines wound up cutting the lead to just eight points with a minute left, but Michigan State drained another 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer and Michigan didn’t attempt to foul.

“I’d like to begin by saying the beginning of the year they picked us to finish 11th in the conference,” Borseth said. “Last? Well, we didn’t. We finished tied for sixth, which was pretty good. In our eyes obviously we’d like to finish a little bit better.”

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