The Michigan women’s basketball team just finished its toughest two-game stretch this season — at home against then-No. 24 Nebraska and at then-No. 7 Penn State in the span of four days.

The Wolverines fell short in both games to end their season 1-4 against ranked opponents. Their lone win came at then-No. 13 Purdue on Feb. 10.

Losses to the Lady Lions and the Cornhuskers leave Michigan (8-6 Big Ten, 19-8 overall) in sixth place in the Big Ten, only one game behind fourth-place Illinois. The Wolverines need to place no lower than fourth in order to earn a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

“We just had to play the top two teams in our league back to back, and that’s very difficult,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We obviously want to be one of the top teams, and in order to be the top, we have to beat the top.”

Michigan has two more games to play, one at home against Northwestern (5-9, 13-14) and one on the road against Ohio State (4-9, 14-12). With two middle-of-the-pack opponents on the horizon, the Wolverines still need help to earn their bye.

“We better finish strong,” Barnes Arico said. “I just think (Penn State and Nebraska) set the bar and hopefully our kids see that if you want to be at the top of our conference, this is where we have to be.”

Michigan State (8-5, 20-6) sits a half-game above Michigan in the fifth spot with three games to play. The Spartans still have to face the Buckeyes and No. 25 Purdue on the road before returning home to face Wisconsin. Illinois (9-5, 16-10), which the Wolverines beat earlier this season, still has the Boilermakers and Ohio State on its schedule.

THOMPSON EXPLODES: Senior forward Kate Thompson has had a roller coaster of a season. Most recently, against the Lady Lions, Thompson exploded for a career-high 25 points and grabbed six rebounds, though she committed a team-high six turnovers.

Behind Thompson’s offensive outburst, Michigan was able to stage a rally on Sunday — getting to within four points on a 3-pointer from senior center Rachel Sheffer — but neither team scored for four minutes before Penn State rallied to push its lead to nine.

“I liked our fight, and I liked how we came back,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re happy with our fight, but we would’ve liked to come away with a victory.”

Thompson’s season has had its ups and downs. The first-time starter averages a team-high 15.4 points per game, but her shooting has been streaky. At one point, Thompson was first in the nation with 3.96 3-pointers per game, but her shooting percentages have fallen, and she now averages 3.7 triples per game on 42-percent shooting from behind the arc.

“It’s important not to put too much emphasis or overthink things,” Thompson said. “We had to come out (against Penn State) and get the win, but we couldn’t, but now we have to move on.”

Thompson holds program records for most career 3-pointers as well as 3-pointers in a season. She currently has 101 this year, becoming only the fifth player in Big Ten history to hit at least 100 in a season.

DOUBLE SUCCESS: Senior forward Nya Jordan has recorded six double-doubles this season, including a 14-point, 10-rebound performance against Penn State on Sunday. She’s scored in double digits in six straight games, the longest streak of her career.

Jordan has been a huge asset for the Wolverines this season. She made her way into the starting lineup six games into the season and hasn’t budged from the spot since. Jordan leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game, while also adding 8.1 points on 50-percent shooting.

The forward played 40 minutes against the Lady Lions, marking the first game in her career that she played the entire contest.

“What really helped us (against Penn State) in the second half was that we started making shots,” Thompson said. “Nya got to the basket and that was a (huge) part of it.”

Jordan also had a huge presence against Nebraska, when she scored 12 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.

“Nya is doing everything for us, I’m really grateful that she turned it on,” Barnes Arico said.

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