With just over a minute remaining in the first half of the Michigan women’s basketball team’s regular-season finale, senior guard Shannon Smith was determined to get her team back in the game.

Down eight points to Illinois — a team the Wolverines never trailed in a victory at Crisler Center a month ago — Smith drove to the rim and drew a foul. She knocked down her first free throw and missed the second, but then she quickly jumped in front of Illinois guard Kyley Simmons and forced a crucial offensive foul.

For a moment, it looked as if Smith’s heads-up play could swing the momentum back in Michigan’s favor — but then the Illini’s Ivory Crawford intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass and tapped in an easy layup.

That sequence of events turned out to be a microcosm of the entire game. Smith led the Wolverines with 24 points, but Illinois’ defense neutralized Michigan’s leading scorers and caused 24 turnovers, allowing the Fighting Illini to pull off a 72-60 upset.

Illinois’ signature “Buzz” defense — a modified 2-3 zone that focuses on opening and closing passing lanes and forcing opponents to throw lob passes — gave the Wolverines fits from the get-go. Several Michigan passes went into Illini hands or sailed out of bounds in the first half, dropping the Wolverines into an early hole.

“They gave us extreme pressure, and we didn’t handle it very well,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “That’s where they scored a lot of their buckets — in transition, off of their turnovers.”

With both teams employing full-court presses and pushing the tempo, play quickly became chaotic and sloppy on both ends, but the Wolverines (8-10 Big Ten, 16-13 overall) simply made more mistakes.

Freshman guard Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan’s leading scorer, missed all seven of her shots and was left scoreless for the first time all season.

Senior forward Cyesha Goree, the Wolverines’ second-best scorer, was completely shut down in the paint, picking up her only two points of the game on a layup with 3:55 remaining. She was unable to provide her usual commanding post presence — she spent several minutes on the bench in the first half with early foul trouble and later had to briefly exit the game after taking a blow to the nose.

Other than Smith, junior guard Madison Ristovski was the only other significant offensive producer for Michigan. She continued her late-season surge with her second straight 15-point showing.

“We need everybody clicking on all cylinders for us to be successful,” Barnes Arico said. “I just think (Illinois’) pressure kind of took us out of our game.”

The Fighting Illini (6-12, 15-15) lost 20 turnovers of their own, but their offense received a boost from center Chatrice White, who finished the game with 30 points and seven rebounds. The Wolverines’ defense had no answer for her — the 6-foot-3 freshman stole the show on Senior Night and even knocked down two 3-pointers.

Not to be completely outdone, Crawford was all over the ball as the main disruptive force of the “Buzz” defense. The senior guard tallied 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

Michigan’s loss likely served as the final dagger in its NCAA Tournament hopes, as it finishes regular season play with a sub-.500 record in the Big Ten after a series of disappointing losses.

The Wolverines are locked in as the eighth seed in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, and they will play Michigan State Thursday for the chance to face No. 5 Maryland on Friday.

“We have another game to play, and I know our seniors want to go out on a better note than they did today,” Barnes Arico said. “They will be prepared, and they’ll be excited to get to the Big Ten Tournament.”

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