Starting a play is the easy part.

All it takes is a dribble down the court.

Finishing it, though, has been difficult for the Michigan women’s basketball team.

“We’ve been trying to emphasize to our kids: Finish the play,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “We did a great job defensively, I felt, but we just didn’t finish the play.”

The Wolverines held Purdue to just .404 shooting from the field in last night’s 56-51 loss. But Michigan’s troubles unfolded after Purdue’s players released the ball.

For the seventh straight game, the Wolverines were overwhelmed on the offensive boards. Purdue finished with a 13-9 advantage.

In the final three minutes, Michigan gave up three offensive boards. The most crucial was won by Purdue junior Lakisha Freeman. With 1:15 remaining, Freeman scored off the rebound to put the Boilermakers in the lead for good.

Michigan knew boxing out would be a key to success in West Lafayette because of the Boilermakers’ size – Purdue boasts three starters taller than six feet. But as hard as the Wolverines fought, the Boilermakers simply wanted the ball more.

“There were so many fumbled rebounds,” Minnfield said. “We had (the ball), but they knocked it out of our hands. We get it again, and they just knock it out.”

While Michigan works to master the basics of Borseth’s offense, it can’t afford to give teams second chances, especially down the stretch. And with the Wolverines posting a .409 field-goal percentage, getting those rebounds is even more important.

“Finishing the play is so critical, especially if you can’t score very well,” Borseth said.

Charity earnings: The Wolverines were much better than Purdue at the free-throw line.

In fact, they were perfect.

The catch? They shot just twice from the stripe.

The Boilermakers, on the other hand, got 18 chances.

And while they made just 10, those points made a difference last night.

“We never got to the free-throw line,” Borseth said. “We weren’t very doggone aggressive, I didn’t feel. They just wanted it more down the stretch.”

Suffering a 50-point blowout against No. 1 Connecticut on Sunday, the Boilermakers learned the importance of grit.

“I was just being aggressive.” Purdue senior Kalika France said. “That’s just what I wanted to do. I learned a lot from our last loss.”

With a close loss against Purdue, Michigan hopes the same lesson can be applied in time for Michigan State on Sunday.

Making an appearance: The average Crisler Arena crowd is 1,386.

The attendance at Mackey Arena on Thursday?

Over 8,800.

Michigan players cherish the crowds and the spotlight, but the Wolverines are a measly 1-4 playing in front of crowds of more than 3,000.

But these crowds all come out on the road, and three of the teams are nationally ranked.

Against Michigan State Sunday, Michigan will host an NCAA/Big Ten “Pack the House” event aimed at bringing more maize-and-blue clad fans to the game.

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