If yesterday’s women’s basketball game was the first
one you’d attended, you might be under the impression that
the Wolverines are a solid second-half team. In the first five
minutes of the half, the crowd saw Smith, Helvey and Pool
contribute to the offense in a focused display of teamwork. The
Wolverines edged out the Badgers in the first 5:05, 8-7. With this
seemingly minor victory, Michigan’s play took on an air of
confidence that led to peak performances, noteworthy contributions
and the team’s first win in five games.

The more seasoned Michigan faithful, however, have taken to
holding their breath during the first five minutes of the second
half of games this season. Time after time, these critical moments
have spelled disaster for the Wolverines, as they have watched
small leads turn to deficits, or miniature gaps augment into
irreparable rifts.

“The first five minutes — no one’s hyped, no
one’s ready to go,” Helvey said after Michigan’s
loss to Purdue last Thursday. “At the beginning of the game,
we’re all hyped. We were all talking in the locker room about
how if we come out in our scramble early, we’ll get big
steals, and then we’ll get hyped up … but as soon as
the got the ball down to the block, they get one, and the demeanor
drops.”

When the No. 6 Boilermakers came to town, it appeared as if
Michigan might have a shot at keeping up with the tough squad. The
Wolverines were only down by six at halftime. Not surprisingly,
within the first few minutes, Purdue went on a 9-0 scoring spree,
and took a commanding lead that propelled them to an eventual
12-point victory.

Take, for example, the Jan. 29 game against Ohio State. Michigan
was down by one at intermission. They returned to the floor, and
tied it up with a free throw, only to allow the Buckeyes to go on a
12-3 run in the next four minutes.

Last weekend, the Wolverines traveled to Illinois, and had a
five-point lead heading into halftime. They once again proceeded to
crumble in the opening moments of the second frame, giving up a
12-5 run to the Illini before five minutes were up.

And that just covers the past week-and-a-half. The pattern of
shining, or at least keeping up, in the first half and floundering
through the second has become an all-too prevalent trend throughout
the 2004 campaign.

But yesterday, Michigan had the chance to experience what it
might be like to start the second half in a more positive manner.
It was no fluke that Michigan seemed so focused during this crucial
period. The team has been working for weeks on looking for a way to
remedy its chronic problem, and snap its four-game losing
streak.

“Both the coaches and the players have been talking about
(our performance coming out of halftime),” coach Cheryl
Burnett said. “We all agreed that we need to do some things
defensively coming out of halftime. We have to make sure that
we’re not lethargic, and we did that today.”

Helvey was also encouraged by her team’s promising
performance.

“It’s a focus for us every game,” Helvey said.
“But today, we came out and did it. It got us off to a good
start. We wanted to go out and scramble, and today Coach finally
let us. It paid off.”

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