For more than a dozen minutes, the Michigan women’s basketball team went on lockdown.
After halftime, the Wolverines didn’t allow a point for more than 12 minutes in the 80-51 exhibition rout over Lake Superior State at Crisler Arena.
“That was really the difference,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “That stretch was good. I thought the crew we had in there did a great job, particularly defensively (by) tipping some passes, making some steals.”
During the span, Michigan’s pressure forced 17 of Lake Superior State’s 30 turnovers and limited the Lakers to just nine shot attempts. Michigan had 15 steals in the game.
On the other end, six Wolverines combined for 26 points during the run to build their biggest lead of the game to 40.
But before the second half, the majority of Saturday night’s play was typical of an exhibition – adjusting to a new system, meshing on the court and getting used to playing games.
Despite a 13-point lead at halftime, the first half mostly showcased Michigan’s flaws on defense. The Wolverines were often beat by transition lay-ups, caught out of position off screens and slow switching off the ball. Lake Superior State also got the Wolverines off their feet on pump fakes, allowing open drives for the Lakers.
To help cut down Lake Superior State’s fast breaks, the Wolverines settled down their offense and worked on their own perimeter swings. Using size to its advantage, Michigan easily got the ball in the post to open up the court and prevented the Lakers from getting anything going.
“First half, we weren’t making shots,” Borseth said. “They were coming down in transition, and we looked like we weren’t even existent. Second half, we did a better job getting around the basket, scoring it and then on the other end, playing (in) a set defense.”
Much of the scoring came from junior Carly Benson and senior Janelle Cooper, who combined for 34 points. Benson was efficient from the field, going 6-for-7 and 3-for-4 from three-point land. Cooper showed off her athleticism by splitting through two Lakers on the left side of the key and flipping the ball off the glass with her left hand during the Michigan run.
For the first time in nearly 11 months, the Wolverines shot over .500 from the field. Michigan also out-rebounded Lake Superior State, 41 to 28. But towering over a Division II team is different from Big Ten competition.
Borseth is particularly concerned with the center position. While sophomore center Krista Phillips could score over a short Lakers squad, Borseth said she will need more finesse to compete against Big Ten foes. With Phillips getting in foul trouble early, senior Ta’Shia Walker filled in and impressed Borseth on defense.
Michigan will also need to be more efficient with the ball. While Borseth’s former team, Wisconsin-Green Bay, recorded a 1.30 assist-turnover ratio last season, the Wolverines recorded a paltry .45. Michigan can’t afford these mistakes if it wants to compete with the likes of Ohio State, the media’s choice to win the Big Ten.
But after three weeks of practice, the team is satisfied with Saturday’s performance. Borseth was much happier with his squad’s ball movement than a few days ago in a scrimmage with Cleveland State. If anything, the Wolverines gained confidence out of the matchup.
“It’s a typical first game,” Benson said. “Overall, we played hard and did most of the things that coach wanted us to do. You can’t ask for much more than that in a first game.”