STATE COLLEGE -It’s easy to stop the Michigan women’s basketball team’s offense.
All you have to do is shut down center Krista Phillips and the Wolverines’ conference-best 3-point shooting.
It might be easier said than done, but Penn State did both.
After its miracle comeback last Thursday at Wisconsin, the Wolverines were unable to pull off a win in State College, losing to Penn State, 68-57, at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Michigan’s offense (4-3 Big Ten, 11-6 overall) struggled in the second half, turning the ball over 10 times. The Wolverines’ shooting also cooled off drastically after halftime – Michigan made 37.5 percent of their shots compared to 58.3 percent in the first half.
Phillips led the team with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but scored 13 of her points in the first half. The Penn State defense tightened on Phillips in the second, limiting her to just five points.
“We were banging around down low and trying to keep her off the block,” Penn State center Janesse Wolff
said. “It was a very physical game, but I think we did a good job on her.”
The Lady Lions frustrated Phillips enough that she was called for a technical foul by punching the floor after fouling Penn State’s Kamela Gissendanner.
“She just got frustrated,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “She didn’t do it out of disrespect for the ref. It was a good call. She got frustrated and hit her fist on the floor.”
With Phillips under defensive pressure, the Wolverines had to look elsewhere for offense. Penn State came out firing on all cylinders and Michigan had to find the offense to keep pace. Junior Carly Benson kept Michigan close with two 3-pointers early in the half to knot the score at 41. But after that, Penn State took off, eventually extending their lead to 11 at 63-52.
The Wolverines attempted a mini-comeback at the end of the game but stopped themselves on nearly every occasion. Phillips and Janelle Cooper made buckets that brought the score back to 63-57, but the Wolverines were careless with the ball, after that.
When Michigan was given opportunities to score, it couldn’t convert easy layups or knock down open shots.
“At the end of the game, we missed every layup we shot,” Borseth said. “We must have had 25 layups, and we missed them. We want to take the threes, but they gave us layups. In a couple of years, we’re going to make every layup they give us.”
The Wolverines have lived off shooting the 3-pointer in most of their wins this year, But Penn State successfully limited open looks on the perimeter, and Michigan shot just 5-of-13 from deep. Wolverine guards Cooper, Krista Clement, and Jessica Minnfield, who average 4.5 threes per game, faced pressure from the Lady Lions and collectively shot just 1-of-4 from downtown.
Though Penn State took away the three, it gave Michigan plenty of good looks down low. The Wolverines were just unable to convert on these easy baskets.