When 6-foot-6 sophomore Krista Phillips takes the court, people are usually in awe of her height.
But during yesterday’s matinee, 6-foot-9 Michigan State sophomore Allyssa DeHaan stole her thunder.
DeHaan entered the game averaging 15.6 points per game and 4.71 blocks per contest, second in the nation.
No matter who matched up, getting a body on DeHaan would be one tall task. Still, Phillips was up for the challenge.
“In my Canada basketball years, I’ve come up against some pretty tall girls,” Phillips said of her pre-Michigan playing career. “But it was a challenge to play against someone who was 6’9.
“But I embraced the assignment and said, ‘All right, I’m going to do all I can to get her out of the paint and stop her scoring.’ “
Though Philips couldn’t completely clear out the post, DeHaan’s production was held to just nine points. DeHaan’s only points in the first half were scored on the opening basket of the game.
“I thought Krista did a real good job on her,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “We were, obviously, trying to keep her away from the basket as much as we could. She didn’t get away from us a great deal. She is the primary focus of what they do.”
Without Phillips on the court, DeHaan showed why she is an integral part of the Spartan offense. In the closing minutes of the first half, DeHaan drew a double team in the paint, allowing a quick pass to sophomore Lauren Aitch for the easy layup.
But for most of the game, DeHaan wasn’t much of a factor. The usual .521 shooter went 4-for-11 from the field.
Phillips deserves much of the credit for DeHaan’s lackluster showing.
What Phillips lacked in height, she made up in strength. Phillips pushed the lanky DeHaan out of the key several times.
“I think the biggest thing was I had some muscle on her, so I used it,” Phillips said. “I gave her a couple nudges with the forearm, and then she would push up herself so I really didn’t have to do it for her. And that was the whole gameplan.”
Another part of the gameplan was making sure Phillips stayed on the court for as long as possible.
In last year’s meeting, foul trouble limited her to just 17 minutes. The same seemed to be unraveling yesterday when Phillips picked up her second foul with five minutes remaining in the first.
But Phillips wasn’t called for another foul and played 18 minutes in the second half.
For Borseth, having Phillips on the court will contribute greatly to Michigan’s success. But it will be a while until she reaches her potential as Borseth works to turn Phillips into a strong post presence.
“She’s got great size and she’s got very good ability,” Borseth said. “But, you know, I’m real hard on her. I am. I expect too much too fast. It’s going to take some time to really get her first in shape and then get her physically equipped with the tools that she needs to be successful.”