They are called free throws, right?
The Michigan women’s basketball team tried to win the hard way: by not taking a single free throw against Minnesota.
Michigan (2-5 Big Ten, 9-9 overall) fell 52-46 to the Golden Gophers (5-2, 13-5) at Williams Arena Sunday, a loss that was at least partially due to the team’s inability to get to the charity stripe.
After falling to Michigan State on Jan. 15, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said the team’s poor free-throw shooting (41 percent) was the “whole game.” He said the same thing Sunday.
Sunday marked the first time in the Borseth era that Michigan failed to shoot a single freebie. Minnesota was a solid 12-of-15 from the line. Even though the Gophers didn’t exactly shoot lights-out from the field, their 12 points from the line were the difference.
The Wolverines sprinted to a 10-2 lead out of the gates and held Minnesota without a basket until nearly five minutes into the game. Michigan’s defense forced turnovers and missed shots early in the game to help build its quick lead, and the Wolverines’ 3-point shooting also contributed to the run.
Michigan shot 54 percent (6-of-11) from behind the arc in the first half and 50 percent from the field. The deep ball helped build an eight-point lead at the break.
But the accuracy didn’t last.
In the second half, Michigan watched its lead disappear as it shot a dismal 14 percent (2-of-14) from 3-point range and 35 percent overall. The Gophers grabbed their first lead with 6:48 left in the game in front of the home crowd.
Thanks to the Wolverines’ ice-cold shooting, Michigan couldn’t finish down the stretch and was outscored 11-4 in the final five minutes and 30 seconds, once again failing to win its first conference road game. Minnesota kept going inside, something Borseth wishes his team would have done.
“We’re not scoring,” Borseth said. “We’re not putting the ball where we need to be able to put it. We’re not aggressive enough in the scoring zone … Right now, the only way we are going to win games is to shut teams right out. That’s our only hope.”
The Wolverines didn’t get the ball inside in the paint, something Borseth said would have led to more points. Getting the ball inside also helps to draw fouls and more free-throw attempts.
Michigan’s defense has been solid as of late, but Borseth said the Wolverines won’t win games unless they start scoring.
The Wolverines continued their recent trend of starting games with hot shooting but falling short as the game wore on.
Sophomore guard Veronica Hicks led Michigan with 15 points. Minnesota center Ashley Ellis-Milan scored a game-high 19 points and converted nine of ten free throw attempts.
Now riding a three-game losing streak, the Wolverines host the Indiana Hoosiers (5-1, 12-3) at Crisler Arena Thursday. The Hoosiers come in tied with Ohio State for the conference lead.
“We are doing a good job of keeping the other teams in check,” Borseth said. “Teams get a little more determined late in the game. You have to get stops, we haven’t. … It would help if we (score) more points.”