A group of Northwood fans chanted “back to basics” when a Michigan women’s basketball player was called for traveling in the first half of Saturday’s exhibition game.
The teams combined for 50 turnovers in the game.
Even though Michigan looked lost at times in the first half, falling behind by 12 points at the break, it made the adjustments needed to slip past the Timberwolves, 71-66.
The game started poorly for the Wolverines, who didn’t score for the first 6:05 and allowed Northwood to jump out to a 12-point lead.
“We missed everything,” Benson said. “Then we were getting flustered and we were shooting too fast. Then we were taking bad shots. We just couldn’t make anything then finally we got a steal and we got a bucket and that relaxed us.”
In the first half, the Wolverines couldn’t successfully get the ball down low to the post. And once the ball got inside, they couldn’t finish in the paint. After making 4 of 14 shots down low in the first half, they made 12 of 14 in the second.
The Timberwolves didn’t back down even though, as Northwood coach Jeff Curtis put it, Michigan had better athletes.
The physically outmatched Timberwolves shot over the Wolverines in the first half. They finished the game shooting 45 percent from the field and 60 percent (9/15) from three point range. Their shooting touch, combined with Michigan’s offensive struggles, led to the halftime deficit for the Wolverines.
Borseth countered in the second half with something he has never done in all his years of coaching. He decided to play a variety of full-court presses, which created more turnovers and sparked the offense.
“I’ve never pressed in my life,” Borseth said. “(Senior) Melinda Queen and (sophomore) Ronny (Hicks) have got some pretty good hands, so why don’t we take a shot? Lo and behold, we made some steals, turned it up a little bit.”
Michigan finished the game with 32 points off turnovers.
With about two minutes left in the game, Hicks gave Michigan its first lead. She drove to the basket with her right hand, switched to her left, made the bucket and was fouled. After Hicks missed the free throw, Benson jumped high for the offensive rebound and scored with her left hand.
Michigan outscored the Timberwolves 45-28 in the second half, giving the Wolverines something to build on heading into the regular season opener Saturday at Kentucky.
Borseth hopes his players learned an important lesson from their six-minute drought.
“We have to put our nose to the grindstone,” Borseth said. “The next play is the most important one. (You) can’t look too far ahead and certainly can’t look behind. You got to look to the next play for every possession for forty minutes.”
Borseth played just seven players in the game, including true freshman guard Courtney Boylan. Boylan, last year’s Miss Basketball in Minnesota, came off the bench, hit a quick three-pointer and helped the Wolverines with seven points, four steals and three assists.
“I like her confidence, and I love her leadership,” Borseth said. “You don’t get that too often. I think she’s a pretty special kid.”
Benson led the Wolverines with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The team’s stats show how unusual the game was as Michigan totaled 17 steals and 8 blocks. They also shot just 54 percent from the free throw line for the game, giving Michigan coach Kevin Borseth all the more reason to make his players shoot more in practice.
Borseth was upset with his team’s sloppy play and acknowledged that something needs to be done to limit the team’s turnovers.
“We need to make some form of adjustment wither with how we prepare or personnel, but that’s way too many turnovers,” Borseth said.
Historically Michigan has had trouble with teams from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They improved their record to 5-6 all time versus teams from the GLIAC on Saturday.