Any hope of the first 10-win Big Ten season since 2011 for the Michigan women’s basketball team was dashed against Rutgers on Sunday. The 72-50 defeat marked a season-low scoring total for the Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 17-12 overall) and ended a good run of momentum the team had built up heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
“I think it was a combination of a lot of things, and we didn’t play like we were hoping to come out and play,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in an interview with the team’s website after the game. “I think Rutgers definitely had something to do with that.”
Michigan was just 10-for-32 from the floor in the first half and was never able to recover from the 34-23 halftime deficit that its poor shooting created, finishing at just 32.8 percent for the game. Rutgers’ (8-10, 17-13) defense added even more to the Wolverines’ troubles, forcing 16 turnovers on the afternoon.
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty led Michigan in scoring with a 21-point performance, despite shooting just 3-for-12 in the first half. However, she was the only Wolverine to reach double figures in the game and the Wolverines could not keep up with the top scorers for the Scarlet Knights. The majority of the damage done by the Rutgers offense came from guards Tyler Scaife and Kahleah Copper, who scored 23 and 20 points, respectively.
Scaife scored 17 of her 23 in the first half, but Michigan came out of halftime implementing a press to try to slow her down, and for much of the second half, it was successful. Scaife didn’t score a second-half bucket until just 2:43 remained in the game. But her teammates picked up the slack and Rutgers widened the gap.
The Scarlet Knights took full advantage of their size in the game, especially when foul trouble for Michigan senior forward Kelsey Mitchell — who fouled out with 4:33 to go — limited the Wolverines to one true post player on the court for much of the game. Without a partner in the post, freshman center Hallie Thome was limited to just nine points, though she did contribute six rebounds for Michigan.
“Our freshmen tonight really played like freshmen, and we haven’t said that all year long,” Barnes Arico said. “Physically, (the Rutgers players) are experienced and they’re seniors and they’re big and they’re strong, and it’s something that our young kids haven’t faced.”
One bright spot for the Wolverines was their rebounding, where they led Rutgers, 38-31. Michigan was once again powered in that category by their guards, with senior Madison Ristovski collecting a career-high 13 during the contest.
With the loss, the Wolverines will have a much tougher road in the postseason, as their seed in the Big Ten Tournament will depend on the outcome of other games. Michigan will be either the seventh or eighth seed to begin next week’s tournament and will have to take on the competition without the momentum of a win streak.