Some may call it sloppy.
But really, it was just gritty.
Michigan put forth its best defensive effort of the season in a 63-46 win over Iowa on Sunday. It was the Wolverines’ interior defense that allowed Michigan to pull out the game.
By limiting the Iowa offense down low, the rest of the Michigan defense could focus on the perimeter, making the Hawkeyes a one-dimensional team.
Both teams played a tight game for the first 30 minutes. Although Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 8-3 overall) ran away with the game in the final 10 minutes, solid Wolverine defense kept the score close early.
Iowa (1-1, 8-5) came into the game known for its perimeter shooting, led by forward Wendy Ausdemore and guard Kristi Smith. But the duo was shut down by Michigan Sunday, scoring 15 points and shooting a combined 6-for-25.
“We were locking down on defense,” Michigan sophomore center Krista Phillips said. “When we play better defense, it helps create our offense. We’re getting shots in rhythm and scoring under the basket.”
The awful shooting was not just bad luck. Phillips plugged up Iowa’s post play with three blocks and 13 rebounds and was complimented nicely by the swarming defense of junior Stephany Skrba, who had six rebounds herself.
Michigan has shot itself in the foot several times by committing too many turnovers. But the Wolverines are starting to resolve those problems. Through its first 11 games, the Wolverines have regularly been careless with the basketball, committing 33 turnovers against then-No. 13 Texas A&M and 22 against No. 22 Notre Dame.
“You have to take care of the ball,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “That’s really the bottom line. If you don’t take care of it, the other team is going to get lay-ups. It’s always a point of emphasis.”
Michigan committed 14 turnovers Sunday, one fewer than Iowa but still more than the coaching staff would like. In the Wolverines’ three losses, they have averaged 23 turnovers. In its wins, Michigan has had just 17 per game.
Coaching with passion:
Coach Borseth’s tirades are a spectacle from the sidelines but they also bolster Michigan’s performance on the court. The Wolverines have won their past four games, including the Big Ten season opener.
Senior guard Krista Clement credited Borseth’s enthusiasm for much of Michigan’s early season success.
“We get most of our energy from him,” Clement said. “The entire coaching staff is very competitive and very passionate about the game, and that carries over to the players on the team.”