After the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 74-40 trampling of Minnesota on Sunday, the team was brimming with relief and satisfaction in the postgame press conference.
It was a huge change in demeanor after Thursday’s four-point loss to Northwestern.
Smiles and laughter were in abundance even before the game clock ran out Sunday.
After a first half that saw five lead changes and 25 combined turnovers, a 6-2 run by Michigan with two minutes remaining in the half proved to be the momentum change the Wolverines needed. They never looked back, earning their first 30-plus point victory of the conference season.
Senior Krista Phillips fist-pumped after making her third 3-pointer in three tries and sophomore center Carmen Reynolds broke into a smile when she hit one from downtown.
Sophomore guard Courtney Boylan was the first off the bench and went on to play 17 minutes, providing the spark the Wolverines needed to play above the ordinary.
“It seemed like a little bit that we were lacking of energy to start the game,” Boylan said. “It’s Sunday, it’s one o’clock. Sometimes you don’t have as much energy as you usually do. So I kind of wanted to just come out there and give us a little spark, give us a little energy and I think that it really helped us.
“We didn’t come out in the second half necessarily winning by 20, but we were up and we had good momentum going into the second half.”
Michigan (6-7 Big Ten, 14-9 overall) was up by double digits just two minutes into the second half when a 29-9 run ensued, kicking dirt over any chance the Gophers had to come back.
“You could feel it that it was going to go,” freshman guard Jenny Ryan said. “We knew that we could find the seams (in the defense). It was there, and I was just telling (the team) stick with it, keep hitting shots and it’ll all start to roll in. And in the end, it did.”
The Wolverines scored 45 points in the second half, more than Minnesota scored the entire game, and got nearly everyone in on the party.
Sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds made a jump shot as she twisted and threw the ball toward the basket as the shot clock expired. Ryan threw herself into the sideline in an attempt to rescue a ball going out of bounds.
“When we came out after halftime, I knew we were going to come out with a lot of energy,” Ryan said. “I could just sense it. There was just one thing after another. Open layups, we were hitting shots, we made the adjustments that were key. I wasn’t expecting us to win by 30, which we did, but we’ll take it.”
After Northwestern stole what would have been the Wolverines’ fourth-straight conference win in Evanston on Thursday, Michigan’s domination over the Gophers (5-7, 11-12) yesterday put the team back on track.
And there is no better time for a confidence-boosting blowout than the game before rival Michigan State comes to Crisler Arena this Thursday.
“Any time we win games in this conference is huge on our behalf because we know how difficult it is to win games,” Michigan Coach Kevin Borseth said. “But Michigan State is an entirely different game. Obviously we have to be ready to play them. They are very good.”
Michigan State is headed to Ann Arbor after winning four of its last five conference games and Michigan will need all of the confidence it can muster to even the score against the Spartans this season after State won in Lansing in December.
“I think (we gained) confidence,” Ryan said after the blowout. “We know that we are capable of putting up big numbers, especially on our home court. That’s what is going to lead us. We are going to keep working hard and we will be ready. We have to take care of the Spartans.”