The Michigan women’s basketball heads to Bloomington tonight for its first matchup of the season with Indiana. It won’t be a walk in the park, and the Wolverines know that by now.
Where: Assembly Hall
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Six games into Big Ten season, they have realized that every game demands energy, rhythm, confidence, concentration, defense, baskets, communication and a lot more. And even when Michigan brings all of those things onto the court, it still hasn’t always come out on top.
The Hoosiers (2-3 Big Ten, 9-7 overall) are coming off four straight years of postseason action, and last year, Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack led her team to a school-record 21 wins. But the Hoosiers are just eighth in the standings, one ahead of Northwestern (2-4, 1-6). The Wolverines lost to the same Wildcats at home last month, breaking a five-game winning streak after shoting a measly 30 percent and being outrebounded by their opponents for the first time in three games. Down by 12 in the second half, junior guard Veronica Hicks made back-to-back 3-pointers and a free throw to cut the deficit to three with less than two minutes remaining. But the Wolverines had dug themselves into a hole too deep and lost their first home game of the season, 63-59.
With a sub .500 record in conference, Michigan (2-4 Big Ten, 10-6 overall) hasn’t even faced most of the top contenders yet. They did almost beat undefeated No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus – almost. Despite a late-game breakdown against the Buckeyes, the Wolverines have come up huge in crucial moments this season.
The squad came out victorious in their conference opener in Iowa City when they were up 52-51 with two seconds remaining before freshman guard Dayeesha Hollins sealed the game with a layup for a 54-51 victory.
Down by one with 14 seconds left against then No. 8 Xavier in Cincinnati, Hollins made a layup for a 72-71 victory.
But Xavier was exactly a month ago and since then, Michigan hasn’t beaten any team they weren’t supposed to beat. Their lone wins are against Detroit, who is 2-9 in nonconference games this season, and Iowa, ranked dead last in the Big Ten. Michigan hasn’t won two consecutive games for nearly a month. And the task of proving they wont collapse after a solid start is a daunting one.
Last season, Michigan started out strong before losing 13 of their last 14 games. But at that point junior center Krista Phillips wasn’t putting up the numbers and sophomore Veronica Hicks was still solidifying her starting spot in the line-up. And the promising freshmen duo, starting guards Jenny Ryan and Dayeesha Hollins, were still in high school.
But this year is different. Phillips registered a double-double last month against Northwestern and is a weapon down low for the Wolverines. Hicks and Hollins are tied with 13 points per game apiece, leading the team. And Ryan plays extremely aggressively for a freshman, leading the team in rebounds, averaging seven per game. Michigan’s scoring differential this season is plus-eight, and that number was a lot higher going into conference play.
Before beating Iowa on Jan. 7 and breaking their three-game losing streak to solidify their first conference sweep of the season, the Wolverines insisted they had not lost confidence, even though their play was leaving a lot to be desired.
“Basically, our confidence is still high,” Hicks said at practice last week. “We still feel like we are good. We just went and played Ohio State at their place, and I don’t know the last time they lost there, but we were mighty close to beating them.”
“They smashed every other team that they’ve played in conference so far and we really had a chance to beat them at their home court,” Hicks said. “Why wouldn’t we be confident right now?”
Borseth continues to emphasize that every game is its own and that one performance doesn’t affect the next – and that’s no different against the Hoosiers tonight.
But if Michigan plays at all like they did in last week’s 20-point road loss to a mediocre Wisconsin team, the Wolverines are in trouble.
So when Michigan steps onto the court tonight in Bloomington, they better not leave anything behind – that is, if they want to climb the rungs of the conference ladder and see postseason action any time soon.