CINCINNATI, Ohio – After falling behind Cincinnati, the Michigan women’s basketball team needed a big solution to its problems.
It found just that in 6-foot-6 center Krista Phillips.
The sophomore simply dominated down low in Michigan’s 55-46 win over the Bearcats last night at Fifth Third Arena.
Cincinnati took it to the Wolverines early in the game, staking a seven-point lead in the contest’s early stages. Kahla Roudebush opened the game up with nine points for the Bearcats in the first 12 minutes. Michigan’s sloppy play didn’t help as the Wolverines jacked up poor 3-point attempts and threw away several errant passes.
But Phillips provided a double remedy to Michigan’s interior defense and post scoring. She shot 7-of-9 from the floor to finish with 17 points. Philips also picked up six rebounds and swiped three steals in just 20 minutes of play.
“She played a monster game,” Cincinnati coach Kelley Hall said. “She gave them a defensive presence inside and altered some of our shots – if she didn’t block them.”
Phillips also starred in a more unsung role, tipping away inside passes and shutting down Cincinnati’s post and transition play.
The Wolverines shot just 4-for-12 from behind the arc in the first half. Michigan coach Kevin Borseth was angry with the number of bad 3-point attempts in the game but was even more upset with the lack of rebounding prowess his team displayed without Phillips on the court.
“We rebounded poorly,” Borseth said. “They had 17 or 18 offensive rebounds at one point. We’re not a very good rebounding team at this point, and she bailed us out.”
To make matters worse, the Wolverines’ weak defensive recognition prevented them from picking up several loose balls.
Michigan began the second half in a slump as the Bearcats stormed out of the gates with a nine-point run to give them a 31-24 lead.
But Phillips again proved to be the cure, making two lay-ups and shutting down the Cincinnati offense. The Wolverines pulled away from the Bearcats with a 15-point run to burst out to a 55-39 lead that essentially iced the game.
When Cincinnati doubled Phillips in the post, the Wolverines passed the ball outside.
Senior Janelle Cooper was the biggest beneficiary from the inside-outside game. Cooper finished second in scoring with 12 points, all of which came from behind the arc.
“We started to get the ball into the post a lot,” Cooper said. “So when they tried to double down on (Phillips), we could kick it out to get some open shots.”
The Wolverines may have opened up the season with two wins, but Borseth doesn’t think this team’s mentality will change for a long time.
“We’re getting caught so many times in the old mode, and they were getting lay-ups and wide open shots,” Borseth said.