CHAMPAIGN Michigan coach Sue Guevara has questioned her team”s effort this season but she didn”t question the hearts of her five starters yesterday.
Despite losing 92-78 to Illinois, Michigan”s starters played all but nine minutes after Guevara suspended Stephanie Gandy, Tabitha Pool and Katrina Mason for a violation of team rules.
After the game, Guevara said that she would stick with yesterday”s starting lineup (Heather Oesterle, Jennifer Smith, LeeAnn Bies, Alayne Ingram and Sierra Hauser-Price) for the rest of the season and did not rule out further penalties unless Pool, Gandy and Mason did what she asked of them this weekend.
The suspensions cost the Wolverines 31 percent of their offensive production and left the team with only seven dressed players.
As for those that did play, they left all of their energy out on the floor.
“Everyone played their hearts out tonight,” Oesterle said. “We really came together as a team out there tonight. We played like we had nothing to lose. We only had seven people.”
Michigan”s fatigue handicapped them throughout the game.
The Wolverines were slow defensively and allowed the Fighting Illini to hit seven 3-pointers in the first half and 10 for the game. Illinois used a full-court press during the first half to further tire Michigan”s starters.
“Teresa (Grentz) she ain”t no dummy,” Guevara said. “If you have seven players (on the opposing team), you are going to press and try and wear us out.”
Illinois” plan worked.
The Illini, whose starters played 42 fewer minutes than Michigan”s, went on a 14-4 run to push the lead to 16 with 13 minutes remaining.
During the second half, Ingram lost her shooting touch, going 3-of-10 from the field a stark contrast to Illinois” 68 percent mark from the field during the second stanza.
Guevara said that Oesterle was playing on a “bum knee” after tearing her ACL last season, but she still played the entire 40 minutes for the first time in her career.
“I”m definitely not used to playing that many minutes but the thing is, I had to play 40 minutes,” Oesterle said. “(The knee) is not really ready for me to play that many minutes.”
Michigan hung tough throughout the game. Despite being greatly fatigued, the Wolverines climbed to within 10 points with six minutes to play. Bies led the way for Michigan with a career-high 36 points but still wasn”t completely satisfied with her performance.
“I could have scored 40,” Bies said. I missed a lot of puppies (layups).”
Aside from Bies, Michigan had few options offensively throughout the game. Two of yesterday”s starters, Hauser-Price and Oesterle, have combined to average fewer than five points a game. They combined for just seven yesterday.