From lights-out 3-point shooting to a little bit of “luck,” the Michigan women’s basketball team has had to depend on a little bit of everything in its first 12 wins.
But the 13th was different.
“For the first time all year, I thought we outplayed somebody,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “I thought we deserved to win that game.”
Last night, the Wolverines notched a convincing 68-53 victory over the Lady Lions at Crisler Arena.
Michigan’s aggressive second-half defense led it to victory. Trailing by one at halftime, the Wolverines forced five early turnovers and turned them into 12 points. The run set the pace for the remainder of the stanza as Michigan wouldn’t relinquish the lead.
But at the start, it didn’t seem like the Wolverines deserved anything. Penn State ran all over Michigan, and the Wolverines failed to convert open looks.
“We couldn’t get anything going at all,” Borseth said.
But Penn State couldn’t pull away. After going 8-for-10 for the first eight minutes of the game, the Lady Lion offense cooled, allowing the Wolverines to keep pace. Michigan (6-6 Big Ten, 13-9 overall) didn’t make its first serious run until there were three minutes remaining in the first half.
“It gave us a confidence boost, like, ‘We’re in this game,’ ” sophomore Krista Phillips said. “At halftime, we’re only down one and we’re not even playing our greatest.”
But coming out of the locker room, the Wolverines seemed to find their greatest.
The Michigan defense prevented Penn State (4-7, 13-10) from getting more than two players in double-digits for the first time since they played Michigan State on Jan. 13. The Lady Lions’ top-scorer, Kamela Gissendanner, was held to just four points after the break.
The Wolverines complemented their strong defense by tying their highest second-half output with 42 points.
And it wasn’t because of 3-pointers.
Michigan restricted itself to the perimeter in the first half, but looked inside after halftime.
Shooting 11-of-14 from the paint, the Wolverines had their best shooting from the field in a half this season at .667.
Much of that was because of sophomore Krista Phillips.
After Phillips missed from point-blank range on several occasions in the first frame, senior Janelle Cooper told her to be patient. The advice helped her continue to remain aggressive, earning all 16 of her points in the second half.
Benson led the Wolverines with 18 points, but it was Minnfield’s eight assists that shined brightest. Her success in the backcourt allowed Michigan to establish the tempo in its half-court set.
Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Wolverines kept pace with the upper half of the conference. But more importantly for Michigan, it was able to establish momentum before hitting the road for its next two games.
“If we wanted to be contenders for the Big Ten tournament or anything, we’re going to need some confidence beating some teams, and we’re doing well at home,” Benson said.