For the first time since 2000-01, the Michigan women’s basketball team is playing a meaningful game midway through February.
Let that sink in.
Michigan’s record (6-6 Big Ten, 13-9 overall) speaks volumes to the team’s improvement this season. Coming off four straight losing campaigns under former coach Cheryl Burnett, first-year head coach Kevin Borseth has turned the program around. And with six games left, Michigan has a chance to play beyond the Big Ten Tournament.
Luckily for the Wolverines, those six games begin at Northwestern (0-12, 4-20), a team on a 13-game losing streak.
And no Wolverine is happier than junior Melinda Queen about Michigan’s upcoming game against the Wildcats.
Although she has not put up huge numbers this season, Queen’s track record against Northwestern is impressive.
Last year, when Queen averaged just four points and two rebounds per contest, she had her best game of the season against Northwestern (11 points and four rebounds).
And again, on Jan. 6, Queen helped spark the decisive 14-2 second-half run that catapulted the Wolverines to victory over the Wildcats. She scored a career-high 12 points, 10 of them during the run.
Queen is also happy to play at Northwestern because it affords the Oak Forest, Ill., native a chance to see her family. Her hometown is an hour away from Evanston, and she expects about 20 family members and friends to attend the game.
“My spirits are up when I see my family,” Queen said. “I’m very excited, just happy to see my family because I know that they don’t come out a lot (to Michigan).”
With the support of her family, Queen will look to help the Wolverines prove they can win games on the road. Michigan has just one conference road victory, and with three left on the schedule, it must take advantage against the struggling Wildcats.
“Yeah, there’s some talk (about the postseason),” Queen said. “But it’s all talk. And we have to prove it out on the court.”
Michigan can’t let Thursday’s contest sneak up, either. The Wolverines could easily look past Northwestern, especially because they play Sunday at Indiana, a team just above Michigan in the Big Ten standings.
But with the postseason a possibility, the Wolverines are going to come out hungry – especially seniors Krista Clement and Janelle Cooper, who haven’t played postseason basketball since high school.
“They are hunting for us,” said Queen, reiterating Borseth’s thoughts on Northwestern. “They know that we have trouble on road games. They know what to expect. And we know what to expect, too.”
Over the final three weeks, the Wolverines will go through uncharted territory for Michigan women’s basketball team.
And it all starts tonight at Northwestern.