In the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 61-57 victory over Minnesota on Sunday afternoon, turnovers were the story of the game.
During the second half, the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers each went on stretches that almost put the game out of reach. When Minnesota came out of halftime on a 15-4 run, the two teams traded baskets, and at certain points, it looked like Michigan wouldn’t be able to come back from the deficit.
But after Michigan coach Kevin Borseth called a timeout with 14 minutes remaining, the Wolverines went on a 22-6 run. Michigan was able to hold that lead for the remainder of the game.
In both teams’ streaks, there was one common denominator: turnovers.
“We got the run when we were in that zone, and we were able to deflect some passes and get some things,” Borseth said.
Michigan’s switch to a zone defense was a major halftime change for the team. In the first half, Michigan allowed Minnesota guard Rachel Banham to score 18 points. But during the second half, the Wolverines gave the Golden Gophers a completely different look.
“I think the fact that we kept changing up the defense (was the difference),” said junior forward Kate Thompson. “We were in a 1-3-1 (zone), a diamond-and-one, and we applied a lot of pressure on the ball. I think it kind of frazzled them a little bit.”
Minnesota coach Pam Borton added: “I thought they did a great job of switching up the defenses in the second half. It was something that we were prepared for and we knew what they were going to do in the second half, we just didn’t handle it well. I thought it was a lot of unforced turnovers by our guards.”
The Golden Gophers committed 22 unforced turnovers, compared to only 11 for Michigan. And not only did the turnovers give the Wolverines more possessions, it also allowed them to score in transition.
Michigan tallied 24 points off of its turnovers — 14 more than Minnesota. Along with all of the points, the turnovers enabled the Wolverines to use their defense to create offense. This hasn’t been a main focus for Michigan, but on Sunday it played a crucial role.
The highlight of the night came on a steal from junior guard Jenny Ryan. She fell to the ground, and before she got up to continue playing defense, she managed to take the ball from the hands of the Minnesota player standing nearby. Ryan led Michigan defensively with six steals and three blocks.
“Jenny had that one (steal) when she was sitting on the floor on her bottom and got the ball,” Borseth said. “That was pretty special. I wish you could’ve seen the smirk on her face. It was one of those Kodak moments.”
As Big Ten play continues, the Wolverines’ ability to mix up their defenses and show teams different looks will be very important. Turnovers have been the problem and the solution for Michigan in almost every game this season. The Wolverines made the necessary in-game changes against Minnesota, and if they continue to do that against other conference opponents, they will likely succeed in the tough Big Ten.