CHAMPAIGN — The Michigan women’s basketball team has
been looking for offensive rhythm all season.

Mira Levitan
Jennifer Smith led Michigan with 31 points, but her efforts were not enough as the Wolverines were blown out by Illinois. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

It finally found it against Illinois on Sunday.

But the Wolverines’ 78 points — their highest point
total since the first game of the season — wasn’t
enough. Michigan gave up 94 points to a Fighting Illini team that
averages just 58 points per game this season.

Illinois shot a school record 73.3 percent from the field in the
second half, thanks largely to easy transition buckets by forward
Angelina Williams.

“We have been working on trying to play offensively 94
feet,” Illinois coach Theresa Grentz said. “When you
are doing that, you will be able to score. We had good penetration
that helped us; it rejuvenated us, and it kept us alive and with
good legs.”

Defense has been the strength for the Wolverines this season.
Coming into yesterday’s contest, Michigan gave up just 60
points per game in Big Ten action.

Playing with a loose zone in the second half, Illinois
continually beat Michigan down the court for easy transition
layups.

“The one thing we wanted to emphasize is that you
can’t give them an easy basket, and you can’t let them
offensively rebound,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.
“We still gave them way too many easy looks. They were making
the next pass, something I don’t think necessarily has been
characteristic of the Illinois team.”

Frozen Solid: Coming into yesterday’s game, the Wolverines
were shooting a league-worst .237 from 3-point range.

Against Illinois, the Wolverines continued to struggle, shooting
just 2-for-17 from downtown in the second half.

Despite center Jennifer Smith’s ability to draw a double
team, the Wolverines consistently missed open long-range shots.

Michigan forward Tabitha Pool, coming off a career best 5-of-7
from 3-point land against Ohio State on Thursday, hit just 1-of-7
from downtown.

In their past five games, the Wolverines have shot just .163
from 3-point range, due largely to opponents’ zone
defenses.

“When teams are really paying (Smith) a lot of attention,
we just really got to hit an outside shot, and that’s been
our struggle,” Pool said. “We can’t live and die
by the outside shot.”

Unable to Recharge: After Michigan’s 51-49 loss to Ohio
State at Crisler Arena last Thursday, Burnett criticized her
team’s recent inability to perform well early in the second
half.

The Wolverines are 7-1 this season when leading at halftime, but
a 43-38 Michigan advantage couldn’t slow down the Fighting
Illini. Illinois began the second half on a 21-7 run, taking a
59-50 lead with 15 minutes left in the game.

Michigan allowed a season-high 56 points in the second half.

“We’re still starting slow,” Burnett said.
“But again, the first five minutes killed us. It’s a
repetitive situation that we need to figure out.”

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