If the Michigan women’s basketball team wants to avoid another downward spiral in the Big Ten this season, it had better hope the third time is, in fact, the charm for coach Kevin Borseth.
The Wolverines (1-3 Big Ten, 9-5 overall) finished below .500 in Big Ten play the last two seasons. And this season, they’re following a familiar script, sitting next-to-last in conference.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, they’ll see a familiar opponent tonight with holes they’ve proven they can expose. Michigan takes on Iowa at Crisler Arena with hopes of redeeming themselves after their first home loss against Northwestern on Dec. 28.
Michigan is in a tough position, but that’s not to say tonight’s game against the Hawkeyes is a must-win. It sure would help, though.
In the first matchup between the Wolverines and Iowa on Dec. 6, Michigan avoided a second half surge by an emotionally charged Hawkeye team and pulled out the victory 54-51.
But Iowa (1-3, 8-7) has come a long way since then.
In their first contest against Michigan, the Hawkeyes shot just 21 percent from beyond the arc. But in their last two games, they have made 34 percent of their 3-pointers.
“They have a lot of kids who can shoot it, got that quick jump shot,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “If they catch you going the wrong way, the kids got it and, boom, it’s gone and they are big kids so they are really hard to defend.”
But perimeter shooting alone won’t determine the outcome of the game. In the last two years against Iowa, the Wolverines have dominated the post. Senior center Krista Phillips recorded a team-high 15 points in the conference opener, and 16 in the game she started against the Hawkeyes a year ago.
“I think KP likes playing against Iowa,” fifth-year senior Ashley Jones said. “She eats those post players up.”
The Hawkeyes were without their leading scorer, junior guard Kachine Alexander, in the first meeting. Alexander is averaging 16 points per game this season.
The Wolverine defenders will have to be much more aggressive on the glass, and more aware of where their opponents are on the floor. Michigan can’t give the Hawkeyes second chances. The Wolverines allowed Iowa 14 offensive rebounds last game, and 41 total.
“To get stops and get rebounds, that’s what our strategy was,” Borseth said after the last game between the two teams. “To get rebounds and bring the ball to the other side of the court”
In Borseth’s past two seasons at Michigan, the Wolverines started off strong by beating ranked opponents but failed to earn a winning record in conference. They haven’t swept a Big Ten opponent under Borseth, nor have they beaten Iowa in the second season meeting.
“We have not had a sweep in my five years,” Jones said. “We want to take care of that.”