Sunday was an emotional day for the Michigan women’s basketball team.
For the seniors, it was the final time they would compete in front of the Crisler Arena crowd.
For Michigan coach Kevin Borseth, it was the first time he roamed the sidelines since his infamous tirade last Thursday.
But despite all that, the Wolverines lost 63-48 to Minnesota in their final regular season game.
Michigan didn’t allow another improbable comeback. It also didn’t have trouble creating shots against a tight and physical Gopher defense.
The Wolverines just didn’t shoot well.
“We had wide-open shots,” Borseth said. “If we had made those shots, it’s an entirely different game.”
Coming out of halftime with the score knotted at 27, Michigan (9-9 Big Ten, 16-12 overall) immediately hit a five-minute cold streak where it went 0-for-10 from the floor and committed three turnovers. The Wolverines struggled to find a rhythm, Minnesota (11-7, 20-10) jumped to a double-digit lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Minnesota guard Emily Fox gave the Michigan defense trouble, finishing with 17 points.
“She’s a very good player and we knew that going in,” Michigan senior Janelle Cooper said. “And it wasn’t like one person would have to guard her, we would all have to help out on her.”
At times, Michigan seemed dumbfounded.
Late in the first half, Fox launched a three-pointer off her own steal. She missed the shot, but grabbed the rebound from a step inside the arc. With the Wolverines standing still, Fox drove to the rim uncontested. Fox finished 8-for-15 from the field and had seven assists.
Gopher forward Leslie Knight supported Fox. Knight scored eight of her 10 points in the second half. Minnesota scored 36 points from the interior, mostly with ease.
Michigan, on the other hand, took as many second-half shots from three-point territory as it did from the paint. And while the Wolverines went .500 from the inside, senior Janelle Cooper, who scored a team-high 11 points, made the lone Michigan triple in the half.
Early in the game, the Wolverines were in the driver’s seat.
Off a Senior Day high, three of the four outgoing seniors scored Michigan’s first three baskets. Minnesota narrowed the gap several times, but Michigan had answers.
As the Wolverine offense settled down, freshman Veronica Hicks provided a spark. After the Wolverines were stagnant for several minutes around the perimeter, Hicks broke the drought with a drive inside. On the ensuing possession, Hicks deflected an in-bounds pass off Knight, caught the ball and put it in for an easy two.
For much of the first half, it seemed that the Gophers were merely keeping up with the Wolverines. But right before the half ended, Fox stole the ball in the Michigan backcourt. Fox gave the ball to Korinne Campbell right below the basket, who scored on her second chance to tie the game at the buzzer.
After the ball went in, Minnesota never looked back.
But this loss may be what the Wolverines needed right before the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.
“To play Ohio State or Minnesota before the Big Ten Tournament is a good thing to see the physical play,” Borseth said. “Now we know it. This you don’t forget.”