CINCINNATI – The Michigan women’s basketball team came out strong on defense in the first half of yesterday’s 75-64 loss to Xavier.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the second half was a completely different story, and Michigan’s defense was not nearly as strong as it needed to be.
After holding the Musketeers to 42 percent shooting in the first half (10-24), the Wolverines allowed their opponents to net 16-of-31 attempts in the second half, including 6-of-12 from behind the arc. This 52 percent performance by Xavier was good enough for 43 points, and more importantly, the win.
“I thought that we lost our defensive focus in the second half,” Michigan coach SueGuevara said. “We lost how we were defending their on-ball screens, we lost where the shooters were. We just lost focus.”
Michigan center LeeAnn Bies believes her team lost its intensity defensively in the second half. The team tried switching to a 3-2 zone to contain Xavier, but the team “just didn’t execute on that at all,” said Bies.
While Guevara focused on her team’s defensive let down, she also praised the starting Musketeer backcourt.
“I think you have to give Xavier a lot of credit,” Guevara said. “They have two senior guards in Waugh and Piipari, and they can stroke it. They can stroke the three.”
Michigan’s defensive lapses allowed Waugh and Piipari to capitalize on their opportunities. Waugh, the tournament MVP, was able to connect on four of her six 3-pointers in the second half, netting 15 of her 24 points. Piipari, a member of the all-tournament team, connected on six of her 14 shots, including a key 3-pointer with 8:10 left in the game to put Xavier up by 10.
“We looked for each other and we found the open person,” Waugh said. “Every time it was somebody different, so we did a good job today of running the offense and executing.”
Waugh and Piipari, along with the rest of the Musketeers, did an excellent job moving the ball throughout the second half to free up good looks from downtown.
“They did a really nice job of making the extra pass to make sure that they were getting them (open shots) in the second half,” Guevara said.
“They were very tough to defend. They have two senior guards, and we have two freshman guards. So, you know, they got schooled.”