For the Michigan women’s basketball team, the basket felt about as wide as the ocean yesterday when the Wolverines outlasted Indiana 65-63 at Crisler Arena.
The 3-point stripe was especially kind to Michigan.
And for a team that ranks last in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage, these days don’t come around often.
Three Wolverines shot better than 50 percent from behind the arc, registering a season-high team percentage of 44.4 percent.
And you might not believe who had the hot hands.
Michigan’s post players accounted for nine 3-pointers, and that’s just the way that coach Cheryl Burnett had in mind.
“I’ve always been a coach that’s wanted a (post) player to shoot the three to stretch the defense,” Burnett said. “One of the things we wanted was for those players to shoot the three (today). . We wanted to take advantage of their (defensive scheme), and I think we did.”
Freshman Krista Phillips was on fire all game. Although she has shown her range in a handful of games, Phillips had only taken sporadic attempts from behind the stripe. The 6-6 freshman proved that her stroke was no fluke, hitting all three deep shots she took.
Phillip’s range added another dimension to the game which the Hoosier defense had no answer for. When preparing for a tall, physical presence in the post like Phillips, a team can’t anticipate her shooting threes. The Indiana post defense was no exception, as Phillips faced little contention on her three-ball attempts.
Another freshman post player, LeQuisha Whitfield, found her stroke as the game wore on. Whitfield couldn’t miss during Michigan’s second-half comeback, hitting three clutch trifectas in the waning minutes of the game.
“I just didn’t want to lose,” Whitfield said of her late surge. “I played intense with passion, and I was just confident in what I was doing.”
Whitfield had ice running through her veins during her last two triples. The Detroit native hit shots to tie the game and then to put Michigan ahead where it would stay.
Bench contributions: While Indiana had a seven player rotation for most of the game, Michigan went deep into its bench to find some of its biggest contributions. Burnett may have started to use her bench extensively to ware down the Hoosiers, but the bench outplayed the starters in many ways.
Not a single Michigan starter recorded an assist, relying heavily on freshmen Kalyn McPherson and Sireece Bass to dish the ball around. McPherson shattered a personal best with seven assists, easily beating her old game-high of two. Bass added three more, rounding out the 10 assists tallied by the Wolverines.
McPherson also added a defensive element the starters couldn’t provide. Giving The Hoosiers fits all day, she recorded five steals. Slipping through the Indiana offense to intercept a pass on several occasions, McPherson gave the Wolverines easy transition points in the process.
“I don’t know. I got lucky, I guess,” McPherson said of her productive afternoon. “We stressed (drop rotation) in practice a lot this week, and I got a lot of opportunities from that.”
The bench’s big game wasn’t lost on Burnett. While the game was up for grabs with just a few minutes left, the coach confidently kept four bench players on the floor. Her strategy worked, and the young players closed out the game with a win.
Crisler isn’t so friendly: The Wolverines may have fallen on some hard times during the past couple years, but that hasn’t stopped them dominating Indiana in Crisler. The last time the Hoosiers left Ann Arbor victorious, “Titanic” was the No. 1 movie at the box office (Feb. 1, 1998). Since then, Michigan has given Indiana a slew of long bus rides home. The Wolverines have won six straight over the Hoosiers at home.