Junior guard Veronica Hicks left the press conference in tears after last night’s 76-59 Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) final four loss to Miami.
Hick’s face was telling of the disappointing finish after Michigan dominated its first four opponents of the tournament, winning by an average of 24 points per game.
“We had so much confidence that we could finish out in this tournament and I think that that’s something that speaks about this team,” Hicks said. “We are a special team. We don’t care what anybody else says about how we’re going to finish. We decide how we’re going to finish and that’s what we came into this season with and that’s what propelled us to the height that we got to.”
Two Miami players, sophomores Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams scored 43 of the Hurricanes’ points, playing especially well off of each other in the second half. When the two combined for three 3-pointers in two minutes to add to the team’s 9-3 run, they sealed the victory.
“Boom, boom, boom. That was just the game,” Borseth said. “That took the wind right out of our sails but I thought our kids played hard and I was very proud of them.”
Michigan jumped out to a quick 13-3 lead three minutes in and held it for most of the first half thanks largely to the momentum freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins brought to the court. She scored eight points and hit a layup with her back to the basket before going to the bench with two fouls seven minutes into the half. Michigan was able to hold onto the lead though, shooting 45 percent for the half. But with five minutes left Miami took the lead for the first time and went into halftime up 37-33.
The Wolverines – typically a second-half team – never regained the momentum. They were outplayed and outshot 45 percent to 40 percent.
Senior Krista Phillips – who led the team with 17 points against Northwestern last week – fouled out with nearly four minutes remaining in last night’s game. Phillips picked up her third and fourth fouls within the first two minutes of the second half and didn’t see the court again until seven minutes remained on the clock. She led the team with seven rebounds in the first half and was a huge presence in the paint both defensively and offensively.
“I didn’t think we had a chance unless we did that,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “That was definitely part of the game plan. You saw us using her off of ball screens as much as possible, trying to get her away from the basket, trying to get her some fouls. It was definitely something we planned on doing, compliments to her.”
Sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds, Michigan’s best sharpshooter and usually a top scorer, improved from 0-for-2 and two points in the first to 2-for-6 from downtown to score eight points in the second, but it wasn’t enough.
Though Michigan shot nearly 40 percent in the second half, Williams’s and Johnson’s back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers with seven minutes left in the game solidified a sinking feeling in Crisler Arena: that Michigan’s offense wasn’t going to get out of its 13-point deficit.
“Their whole style of play is just push the ball, push the ball,” Hicks said. “When you are just throwing up three’s and they’re going in it’s pretty hard to stop that.
Borseth’s winningest season with the Wolverines and the program’s furthest run in a national tournament ended last night, but not without a fight. And Michigan came one step closer to being a national competitor.
“I think our program’s going in the right direction,” Borseth said. “We feel good about our kids. A year like this hopefully makes some people stand up and take a look at our program and say, hey you know what they’re for real. We want them to look at us and think we’re a viable option to come here, to be a competitor on the national level. We are a national university obviously and we should be able to compete on that so years like this I think we can use to build that.”