The Michigan women’s basketball team stole the basketball this weekend like Facebook steals college students’ time during exam week.
Entering the weekend, Michigan averaged just more than six steals per game. They had 31 steals on the weekend, for an average of 15.5 per game.
The defensive pilfering helped the Wolverines dominate North Carolina State, 63-52, at Crisler arena on Friday. But No. 14 Duke stole the show in the second half Sunday, beating Michigan, 60-45, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Wolverines have been plagued this season with slow starts, but that wasn’t the case this weekend. They started quickly at Duke, and against North Carolina State they jumped out to a quick 18-4 lead.
After Friday’s game, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said his goal is for the team to get “13-plus steals a game” and limit its own turnovers to fewer than 13.
Michigan had 20 steals on Sunday, but still lost the game.
The Wolverines had success from long range early on at Duke, making four of its first six 3-pointers. That pulled Michigan to within one point just seven minutes into the game. A different player got into the act with each successful shot.
The Wolverines hung with the Blue Devils in the first half thanks to their stingy defense. But when the second half began, Michigan allowed Duke to go on a 12-4 run in the first four minutes. The Blue Devils shot 60 percent from the field in the second half.
Michigan sophomore guard Veronica Hicks had a career-high 16 points, along with four assists, and four steals. Senior forwards Carly Benson and Melinda Queen also had four steals each.
Michigan forced 30 Blue Devil turnovers, but the Wolverines scored just 13 points off of them.
“You need to get easy baskets off of (steals), Borseth said. “We never got to the rim a whole lot. That made it difficult. But I thought our defense did a pretty good job. (They were) real scrappy, getting in passing lanes and creating things. That probably kept us as close as it did.”
Duke’s rebounding made up for the disparity in steals (20-8). After the game, Borseth called the Blue Devil squad a “rebounding machine.” Duke finished with 46 rebounds (15 offensive) to Michigan’s 22 (nine offensive).
“We kind of strayed away from what we really wanted to do, which was to get it on the block,” Hicks said. “We weren’t really looking at the block all that much, and we weren’t really flashing to the block like coach wanted us to. That kind of took our offense out of the game.”
The Blue Devils interior athleticism forced Michigan to generate offense from the perimeter, but the Wolverines couldn’t connect.
That the statistics show a win at home and a loss on the road shouldn’t come as a huge surprise for the Wolverines. On the season Michigan has outscored its opponents by 16 total points at home, and have been outscored by a total of 28 points on the road.
“I thought we competed pretty well with them,” Borseth said. “Had it been at home, who knows, maybe we would have made some more shots. Maybe we would’ve had a little more energy. I know that the crowd sure makes a big difference.”