The Michigan women’s basketball game against Minnesota on Sunday was a contest of fits and starts.

Beginning the second half with a one-point lead, the Wolverines quickly found themselves down 10 to the Gophers. Thoughts flashed back to the Penn State loss earlier in the week, tempers flared, and after a handful of collaborative efforts Michigan tied it up at 42.

On the next play, junior guard Jenny Ryan ripped the ball away from a Minnesota forward, took two dribbles and threaded the ball perfectly into the hands of junior center Rachel Sheffer for the and-one lay-in. From that point forward, with Ryan and Sheffer at the helm, the team never looked back.

The Wolverines went on to defeat the Gophers, 61-57.

“Our kids were resilient,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “They lost to Penn State the other night, and so when they got behind in this one they made sure to keep their composure and grab key rebounds and make key shots. They have a lot of burning desire inside them — a lot of fight.”

The high scorers of the night were Sheffer with 20 points and junior guard Kate Thompson, who racked up 13 for the Wolverines.

Despite a rocky start, Sheffer came alive down the stretch of the second half and led the Wolverines on an 18-2 run. Her quick, seemingly effortless footwork gave her moves down on the block an almost artful nature. She possessed both the airy essence of a ballerina and the sheer force of a lumberjack — a strange and wonderful mix that not only gave Michigan opportunities around the basket, but also gave shooters like Thompson and Ryan open looks around the arc when their defenders collapsed inside.

Although the Wolverines emerged triumphant, the 10-point deficit at the start of the second half marked a dark time for the team, and led to a period of major adjustments on both sides of the floor.

Borseth and his team were trying different defenses, different matchups, different play calls and yet nothing seemed to click. Finally Borseth called a timeout. He gathered his players together and asked flat out, “What do you want to do?”

“They told me to get out of the way and let them do what they do,” Borseth said. “I was calling plays because I thought we could manufacture points from the bench, and it wasn’t working. The kids play together well. They understand what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are.

“Sheffer hit seven in a row at one point, and I think that if we kept calling plays, that wouldn’t have happened, and we wouldn’t have won.”

Michigan, the relatively veteran squad who had grown up in a purely motion-offense based program, managed to find solace in their comfort zone — which is not too dissimilar from absolute chaos.

Ryan, the mayhem-inducing shooting guard, not only thrived in the chaos, she looked to create it every time down the court. Her efforts were clearly outlined on the stat sheet.

Ryan had eight points, five assists, six rebounds and six steals — one of which she earned while sprawled on the ground, giving new meaning to the term “taking it lying down.”

“You can never underestimate Jenny,” Sheffer said. “She’s always showing you more. Even when you think she can’t do any more she continues to give you something. Tonight she gave us six key steals. We really base our energy around her.”

Luckily for the Wolverines, Ryan’s energy peaked at the end of the second half, giving them the extra push to pull out the win and end on a start instead of a fit.

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