Midway through the second half of Michigan’s WNIT second-round matchup, senior center Krista Phillips caught a lob from freshman Dayeesha Hollins and banked in a layup over her head from underneath the basket. In the next two possessions, Phillips recorded a block, nailed a 3-pointer and then followed it up with another bucket in the post, finishing and drawing a foul.
Phillips’s quick seven points gave the Michigan women’s basketball team an insurmountable ten-point lead, which the Wolverines would never relinquish in their 72-57 win over Toledo on Sunday at Crisler Arena.
“I think it was important to have momentum on our side at that point,” Phillips said. “If I hadn’t have done it, someone else would have. That’s the good thing about our team.”
Even with a team-high 22 point and 11 rebounds, Phillips certainly didn’t have to do it alone. In fact, three players put in 62 of Michigan’s 72 points.
Hollins put in 19 to go along with six assists while sophomore forward Carmen Reynolds scored 21 points, including going 4-for-9 from deep. Junior guard Veronica Hicks’s eight points represented most of the remaining scoring for Michigan.
But Hicks’s contributions were far greater than what her point total indicated.
In the second half, Hicks was the primary defender of Toledo guard Naama Shafir, who torched the Wolverines for 23 points, including going 6-of-7 from three. She scored 13 in the first.
“(Shafir) is as good a guard as we’ll play anywhere,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “She is just, she’s off the charts. … We thought we were doing a good job on her but she just gets away from you.”
But when Hicks utilized her length and quickness to keep the ball out of the Israeli native’s hands, she kept Shafir scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the second half.
“We just together as a team saw the damage that she was doing to us in the first half,” Hicks said. “We just went like, you know, we can’t get beat by one player. … We knew that she was the key to stopping them.”
And stopping Shafir became the difference. The Rockets shot just 22 percent from the field in the second half, compared to 50 percent in the first. The team was held without a second-half field goal for more than 12 minutes coming out of halftime.
But Michigan had its own shooting troubles.
The Wolverines (19-13 overall) jumped out to an early lead as Phillips scored nine points in the first four minutes. But when the 6-foot-6 center picked up her second foul, the smaller Toledo (25-9) lineup took advantage and forced Michigan to shoot just 35 percent from the field.
“She scored on the block today and a lot of times we don’t use her down there and people wonder why we don’t use her down there at times,” Borseth said. “Today she was very effective.”
When the Wolverines went back to Phillips in the second half, it sparked the run that ultimately won the game.
Before the season started, in a closed-door scrimmage, Michigan took on Toledo in its first matchup of the year. The game was played as if it were the first game of the year, and at that time the nerves of a team with six freshmen were evident.
“We scrimmaged them early in the year and they handed it to us,” Borseth said after the team’s win over Kent State on Friday. “They had us down by about 15 so we have to make some adjustments before we are ready to go.”
Yesterday’s 15-point win represents the progress the Wolverines have made, from the beginning of the season to where they are now. The victory is especially impressive when you consider the surprisingly large number of Toledo fans, band members and students that made the short trip up US-23 for the game.
With the win, Michigan advances to the third round of the WNIT and will play the winner of today’s matchup between Northwestern and St. Bonaventure.