After giving up 59 points in its last two road games, it’s hard to blame the Michigan women’s basketball team for being happy to come home.
Michigan (4-3) returns to Crisler Arena tomorrow to face Kentucky after a six-game road trip. It has been nearly a month since the Wolverines last played a game in Ann Arbor.
“It feels so good,” senior Krista Clement said. “It’s going to be fun to play in Crisler, but more importantly, we’ve all been complaining a little bit about our school. We’ve just been on the road. It just wears on you.”
The wear and tear of a six-game road trip that spanned five states was visible in the Wolverines’ past two games.
No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 16 Notre Dame outplayed Michigan and brought out the Wolverines’ weaknesses.
The Wolverines shot a dismal 29 percent from the field in those two lopsided defeats. Michigan was outrebounded and committed 24 more turnovers than the opposition, too.
“There were some bright spots against Texas A&M,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “We just didn’t play very well (against Notre Dame) on either side of the basketball, and that was real disheartening.”
Although the game is tomorrow, Borseth is more focused on his team than the Wildcats.
“This has got more to do with us,” Borseth said. “Granted the competition we have, we need to prepare for it because they are very good, but we seem to be in our own way. At this point, right now, we really haven’t found our identity and we’re working at trying to work out all the kinks.”
Asked what his team needed to improve on in its three games before the Big Ten season begins, Borseth didn’t hold much back.
“There’s so many things that we lack,” Borseth said. “There (are) so many areas of concern that we have, that to point out any one in particular is really difficult. But just sense of urgency in everything that we do, offensively getting to the rim and defensively getting the shooters.”
Kentucky doesn’t have the credentials of the Aggies or Irish, but it doesn’t lack talent by any means.
The Wildcats (3-3) have two second-team All-SEC selections from last year in guard Samantha Mahoney and center Sarah Elliott. Mahoney averages 17.3 points per game and has hit the 20-point mark twice this season. Sophomore Krista Phillips is the lone Wolverine to score 20 points in a game this season.
Elliott averages 12.6 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per contest. More important, the senior has 15 blocks, compared to the entire Michigan team, which has just 19.
And when Elliott and Phillips are in the paint, there won’t be a shortage of height. Both centers are 6-foot-6. Tomorrow will mark one of the few times Phillips goes against an opponent of the same size.
Even after a tough loss to the Irish, Clement liked what she saw at the end of the Notre Dame game.
“More than anything, we just started to play together better,” Clement said. “Toward the end of the game, rather than just giving up, we really came together and kind of said, ‘The last six minutes we’re going to try to win.’ And I think that meant a lot to our team.”
It may have been a sentimental win for the Wolverines, but a return home means it’s time for something more than moral victories.