With 29 seconds left in the Michigan women’s basketball game against Iowa State yesterday, the Cyclones’ sophomore forward Hallie Christofferson drained a 3-pointer to cut Michigan’s lead to four.
Following a timeout, the Cyclones needed to foul. Unfortunately for them, they decided to foul senior guard Courtney Boylan. She went six-for-six from the charity stripe, all of which came in the final minute of play.
The Wolverines (8-1) held on to defeat the Cyclones, 56-49.
Though Michigan was eventually able to put more points on the board than Iowa State, its inside game struggled against the Cyclones’ big baseline defense.
“I thought both teams tonight did really well defensively,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “We were struggling offensively to get down in the paint and get quality shots off. We tried to do anything we could to get inside there and make something happen. A couple of times we forced shots in the middle, but they are so tough around that basket. Luckily, kids hit shots when they needed to, so that was really big.”
Fortunately for the Wolverines, Iowa State wasn’t defending outside shooters, allowing Michigan to have a successful game around the arc.
“Their style of defense is to lay off the 3-point shooters,” said junior guard Jenny Ryan. “As a 3-point shooting team, our shooters came in and knew that this was our game.”
The Wolverines ended up shooting 8-for-18 from beyond the arc. Though Iowa State made two more threes than Michigan, it also took 36 attempts.
The Cyclones live and die by the 3-point shot, averaging close to 30 attempts a game. The only other time the Cyclones (6-2) lost was against Penn State, when they went 6-for-26 from the 3-point line.
Michigan has been very careful not to depend too heavily on its shooting to win games. Instead, defense has been the focus so far.
“When go into a game we don’t think, ‘We’re shooters, let’s just shoot the ball,’ ” Ryan said. “We approach each game differently, trying to figure out what will be required of us to win. I think this year, versus past years, we go into games relying on our defense so we can win even when we aren’t feeling our shots.”
Rebounding has been a central focus of the Wolverines’ defense, primarily because it’s been their weakness. Iowa State snagged 10 more boards than Michigan, and No. 6 Maryland — the only team to beat the Wolverines — nabbed 23 more rebounds.
“Free throws and defensive rebounds win games,” Borseth said.
Overall, the team was happy to come away with a solid win after the loss to Maryland last week.
“Coming off of a first loss, like ours against Maryland, you never know how a team is going to respond,” Ryan said. “I was anxious to see if we’d be confident, but to bounce back with a good win against a good team makes me feel really good.”