Last night, the Michigan women’s basketball team needed to be offensive.
But it was Wisconsin who gave the Wolverines a rude awakening.
Powered by a 51-point second half and a 23-9 advantage on the offensive boards, the Badgers proved to be too much for Michigan in a 69-67 win at Crisler Arena.
Wisconsin avenged a January loss to the Wolverines in which sophomore Krista Phillips hit a miracle 40-foot three pointer to send the game into overtime.
Holding a 20 point lead with 15 minutes to play, Thursday, Michigan (9-8 Big Ten, 16-11 overall) collapsed everywhere but on the boards, where Wisconsin dominated.
The rebounding disparity was the difference in the game and will be a point of emphasis as Michigan heads into its regular season finale against Minnesota Sunday.
“The entire thing came down to offensive rebounds and out of every stinkin’ offensive rebound we didn’t get one of them,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said.
But the Wolverines had chances to win or tie the game at the end.
Trailing 65-64, with 32 seconds remaining, senior Janelle Cooper had a great chance to give Michigan the lead. But Cooper, who was trapped under the bucket, made an errant pass out of bounds.
On the next possession, after being fouled, Wisconsin’s Janese Banks made her first free throw but missed the second. The Badgers picked up the offensive rebound, drew a foul and made another free throw to take a three-point lead.
“We don’t block out very well or we don’t get calls one or the other,” Borseth said.
Junior Carly Benson nailed a 3-point shot from the baseline to tie the game at 67 following Banks’ free throw.
But junior Jessica Minnfield committed a foul with four seconds remaining and the Badgers’ Teah Gant drained both her free throws to give her team the win.
In the first half the Wolverines limited the damage from Wisconsin’s nine offensive rebounds. Michigan played with a lot more energy and aggressiveness, taking a 36-18 lead into the half.
“You don’t know how frustrating it is to play like we did in the first half and then come out in the second half and lay an egg,” Borseth said.
The Badgers took control of the game in the second frame, scoring 51 points including key shots made by Wisconsin’s leading scorer Jolene Anderson.
“They take the ball to the basket,” Borseth said. “They drive, drive, drive, drive and they make shots.”
The game may not have been the worst statistical loss of the season, but as evidenced by the players’ reactions, it hurt the most.
“Going into the last couple of games you want to be playing your best basketball,” senior Krista Clement said. “And we had such a good feeling after the first half.”
The Wolverines have to rebound from the game and work on rebounds to gain any kind of momentum going into the postseason. Michigan plays the leagues’ best defense in Minnesota Sunday and then heads to the Big Ten Tournament next Thursday.