EAST LANSING – As you might have seen after the Michigan women’s basketball team blew a 20-point second-half lead to Wisconsin about a month ago, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth usually has something to say in postgame press conferences.
But yesterday’s 45-40 loss to Michigan State (10-8 Big Ten, 22-13) in the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament took the punch out of Borseth.
“I don’t really know what to say, so,” Borseth said, trailing off. “I’ll let you guys ask questions.”
The Wolverines went scoreless for 10:51 through the end of regulation and most of overtime.
“It wasn’t what they did, it’s what we did to ourselves,” Borseth said. “They say, ‘You don’t mind getting beat but you hate losing.’ That’s how I feel right now.”
With six minutes left in the game, Michigan led 37-30. But the Spartans outscored the Wolverines 15-3 in the final eleven minutes, including overtime, to secure a victory.
For the game, Michigan shot just 13-for-61, including 4-for-33 on 3-pointers. It was the Wolverines’ worst shooting performance of the season.
Michigan (9-9, 19-14) continued to jack up 3-pointers because they couldn’t penetrate Michigan State’s defense.
“That’s really a glaring weakness that we have this year,” Borseth said. “I am embarrassed for myself. I feel bad for the kids that I couldn’t get them a shot.”
The late-game drought can easily be attributed to the Wolverines’ poor shooting, but the 2-3 zone defense Michigan State implemented in the second half changed the course of the game.
6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan, in the center of the zone, had four blocks and forced Michigan to stay on the perimeter.
“It was just her presence defensively that scares you more than anything,” Borseth said. “You can’t attack the basket. I must have just put the fear of whatever in them not to throw it in there.”
The game started off ugly for both squads, as shot after shot clanked off the rim. Neither team reached double-digits until the 5:52 mark of the first half, when Michigan junior Stephany Skrba connected on a layup.
After Skrba’s basket, Michigan found its rhythm and scored 12 more points before halftime to take a 23-16 lead. The Wolverines could smell the tournament’s final four.
Michigan was in the driver’s seat until Spartan Courtney Davidson’s layup with 6:05 remaining in regulation cut Michigan’s lead to seven.
The Wolverines missed their next five shots, all 3-pointers, before overtime. In the extra period, they missed all seven shot attempts, five of which game from behind the arc. And because of the Spartans’ aggressive zone defense, most of their shots were contested
“Shooting is all about rhythm,” Borseth said. “If you can’t get rhythm shots they’re hard to make.”
Borseth said he believed deep down that this team could go as far as they did. And despite missing out on the program’s first 20-win season since 2000, he and his squad achieved more than most outside the program thought was possible.
“It took a while for us to get to adapt to each other,” Borseth said. “I really thought we played our best basketball at the end of the year. It was, all in all, a pretty good year.”