After a big win against Illinois on Thursday, the Michigan women’s basketball team was out to prove it was back on track. On Sunday, the Wolverines upset No. 13 Purdue, 67-56, to revive themselves after recent struggles in conference play.
Michigan (7-4 Big Ten, 18-6 overall) outplayed Purdue (7-3, 18-5) from the opening tip to the final whistle, holding the Boilermakers’ offensive attack to 38.2 percent from the floor. Despite committing 14 turnovers — two more than Purdue commited — Michigan compensated for its extraneous giveaways by connecting on 53 percent of its shots from behind the 3-point line.
The Wolverines raced out to an early 17-4 lead in Mackey Arena, but the Boilermakers battled back, and trailed by just three points at the end of the first half. After jostling with a tight margin midway through the second half, late free throws helped Michigan pull away with the victory. It was the Wolverines first win in West Lafayette since Feb. 8, 1998.
“We came out strong to start, but we knew Purdue would come back with their runs, which they did in both halves,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “They went up in the second half, and I was really proud of our composure and how we stuck together. We are really happy to get the win; it had been a long time at Purdue.”
Senior guard Kate Thompson struggled with efficiency from beyond the arc, but managed to lead Michigan’s offense with 22 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Typically known for her defensive skills, senior forward Nya Jordan contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds — her fourth double-double of the season.
“I know when the season first started I was feeling a little passive, and coach wanted me to be more aggressive,” Jordan said. “I’ve just been playing with no fear and going after every rebound I can get.”
The Boilermakers finished with three players in double digits, though the Wolverines effectively contained Purdue’s major offensive threats. Junior guard Courtney Moses and freshman guard April Wilson tied for a team-best 12 points in the game. Junior guard KK Houser, who averaged 10.3 points entering the matchup, was held scoreless against a physical Wolverine defense.
“We really worked on packing it in and encouraging their guards to take outside shots, with the exception of (Courtney) Moses,” Barnes Arico said. “We were going to live and die by that. If they made shots, we were not going to be successful.”
Thompson’s 3-pointer to start off the afternoon affair not only sparked Michigan’s early offensive spurt, but it also placed her into the program’s record books. With 91 all-time 3-pointers, Thompson is now the all-time leader in 3-pointers made in a season. She tied Carmen Reynolds’ record of 85 3-pointers during the Illinois game and added six more to her total against the Boilermakers.
“It’s a tremendous honor, especially to be in the same category as Carmen Reynolds,” Thompson said. “She was one of the best 3-point shooters when she was here at Michigan. I played under her a lot and always admired how good she was.”
Barnes Arico has stressed the importance of controlling the glass all season and it paid dividends against Purdue. The Wolverines outrebounded the Boilermakers, 34-24, and are now 13-2 when outrebounding their opponent this season.
Aside from earning its first win over a ranked opponent this season, Michigan’s upset of Purdue helps the Wolverines remain competitive in the Big Ten standings after dropping four out of their last six games. In what is becoming a logjam for a spot on the Big Ten podium, Michigan must carry Sunday’s momentum into its next game against Michigan State at home.
“People don’t come in here and win at Purdue,” Barnes Arico said. “For us to be able to come in here and do that, especially after beating Illinois, and follow it up with this win, it says a lot about our program and where we are now. I think it is a great win; it is a quality win; it is an NCAA win for sure.”