CINCINNATI — Xavier was ranked 12th in the country. The Michigan women’s basketball team was unranked – something they’re accustomed to, especially after finishing 10-20 last season. But that doesn’t mean they had settled on it.
The underdog Wolverines (8-2, 1-0 Big Ten) proved their road warrior credentials, playing down to the wire for the third time in their last four games and pulling out their fourth consecutive road win.
And now, Michigan is a contender – if you ask them, at least. The confidence they’ve been missing for so long may slowly be coming back.
“I think confidence-wise we have it,” senior center Krista Phillips said. “I think we know what we need to do and we know how we need to play and today, coming here, it’s a ripe team and we always want to come in and take it from their home court. It’s one of those things where we came together at the end, we made some pretty big plays, some shooters took some shots and it went in our favor.”
Home fan advantage: Freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins, a Cincinnati native, came into her own at the Cintas Center last night. Her breakout 22-point performance left Xavier fans feeling somewhat jilted.
“She’s from our town, how is she not on our team?” yelled one Musketeer fan in the stands across from where Hollins’ extended family and friends sat.
“We’re glad we have her,” Phillips said. “We wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
Family and friends erupted every time Hollins made a play, which was quite often – she led the team not only in points, but also rebounds (nine) and steals (four). Her fan club jumped from their seats brandishing maize paraphernalia and she fed off of them.
“Before the game started, I just told her I wanted to see the player that I saw play in Atlanta a couple years ago,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “I didn’t want to see a kid that came out here and looked for anybody else to save her. I just wanted her to go out there and play … What you witnessed out there tonight was the way that kid’s capable of playing.”
The Fighting Five: All five starting players played a huge part in Michigan’s success. Sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds and Phillips both scored in the double digits in their best collective performance of the year.
As a result, Borseth didn’t need to use his bench for much of the game.
Michigan recorded its lowest bench-point total all season (just one), but the Musketeers (7-2) took advantage at the end of the first half, going on a run to get up by 5 before the break and Michigan’s comeback.
“This isn’t good enough,” Phillips said. “We are not going to settle for this. We want to do big things and we want to get to the Tournament and we want to get better.”
But Hollins came through, scoring the first seven points of the second half and, in the end, Michigan made it happen. If the team can consistently win games like this one – especially heading into Big Ten play – that NCAA Tournament appearance will begin looking likely for Borseth and the Wolverines.