After a three-week layoff, some questioned whether the Michigan women’s basketball team could play its best offensive basketball in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Its 75-57 win over Virginia Commonwealth proved that it could.
The long layover was a blessing after the Wolverines were dominated by Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes held Michigan to just 37 points – the team’s lowest total of the season – and raised some questions about how prepared the team was heading into the postseason.
“We needed the time to sit back and re-evaluate and fix some things and get us moving in the right direction,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “I thought (the break) really helped us.”
Borseth used the bulk of the time off to work on the team’s shooting, a glaring weakness in the Iowa game. And after shooting a paltry 27.1 percent against the Hawkeyes, Michigan was lights-out against Virginia Commonwealth, shooting over 72 percent in the first half and 62 percent for the game.
“We had a great week of practice,” Borseth said. “With preparation for this game, we were probably a lot better than we were when we ended the year. We had our best practices, probably, in the last week. We prepared ourselves better for this than any game that we played.”
Not only did the break allow the Wolverines to shore up some areas of concern, it allowed them to rest up. But the senior class was ready to get the tournament started, never having played in a postseason game.
“(When you’re) practicing every day and not playing a game, you just feel anxious to get out there,” senior Janelle Cooper said. “But when you’re out there, your adrenaline is flowing and you’re excited to be there.”
Prayer answered: If one miracle shot wasn’t enough this season, Michigan made sure it got a second.
As the seconds wound down in the first half, senior Krista Clement lost control of the ball while dribbling through half court. The senior regained possession with three seconds remaining on the clock and heaved up an off-balance shot from about 35 feet away. Just like Krista Phillips’ buzzer-beating shot against Wisconsin which sent the game to overtime and allowed the Wolverines to win, Clement’s shot fell
“(The shot was) pretty lucky, I guess,” Clement said. “Everyone was laughing. (My opponent) was like, ‘you traveled and they didn’t call it, and you lost the ball and you got it and then you made it.’ It was pretty funny.”
The shot gave Michigan a 41-25 lead at halftime and ignited the Crisler Arena crowd.
“That was drive, that was Krista Clement drive,” Borseth said. “She’s one of those kids that doesn’t quit on the play. She’s a complete player. She threw it up there and everybody was like, ‘yes!'”
Staying home: In a surprise turnaround, the Wolverines will be hosting round three of the WNIT against Southern Mississippi on Thursday. Last week, it appeared that Michigan would have to travel to Mississippi to play because of the women’s gymnastics Big Ten Championships scheduled for Friday. But the Athletic Department was able to re-schedule when equipment for the gymnastics meet would be set up.
Playing at home has been a major boost for Michigan this season. The Wolverines are 11-3 at home and just 5-8 on the road.