Kim Barnes Arico stared at the ground and spoke into it.
“Well, that was a tough one.”
A true statement if there ever was one. The No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team (8-3 Big Ten, 19-5 overall) was up 72-56, cruising to victory over Purdue (15-8, 6-3), when the bottom fell out.
A 16-point lead became 14, then 11. Two minutes went by without either side scoring, and then the lead became eight. The tension started to build. Junior center Hallie Thome and freshman forward Hailey Brown — who scored 20 and 18 points on the night, respectively — were both playing with four fouls. The Wolverines hadn’t scored in three minutes.
“We stopped being aggressive on the offensive end,” Barnes Arico said. “And we got really tentative.”
Instead of mere stops, Purdue started forcing turnovers. Lamina Cooper picked off a kickout pass to senior guard Katelynn Flaherty made from the post and was off to the races, cutting the lead to six with just over two minutes to go. Michigan hadn’t scored in four minutes.
“I think we were so timid,” Dunston said, stopping to search for the right adjective. “And then it was getting like, three, two, one on the shot clock, which isn’t, like, normal for us. We don’t try to run the shot clock down. And then, by then, we had no, like, there was no way we could have scored with the position we were in. It just continued to happen.”
Purdue’s Tamara Farquhar converted a driving layup to cut the lead to four, and the tension ratcheted up a notch. But with just over a minute to go and the Wolverines still holding a two possession lead, the odds were still in their favor — at 95.9 percent, to be exact, according to ESPN.com's win probability model. But yet, Michigan hadn’t scored in five minutes.
“I think we got comfortable,” Thome said. “And so we thought, with how we were playing on offense, ‘I mean, we got a big lead and so we didn’t need to score.’ So I think we were just too comfortable.”
Another possession, another turnover. The Boilermakers’ Dominique Oden stripped the ball from Flaherty, who fouled her immediately. Purdue was in the bonus, and two free throws later, within two points. Next time down, Flaherty cut backdoor and found a lane. She went for the layup and was met by the Boilermakers' Ae’Rianna Harris, who spiked the ball out of bounds. On the subsequent inbounds play, Brown’s entry pass to Thome was stolen. Michigan hadn’t scored in six minutes.
“(Purdue) did a triangle-and-two for a little bit on (Katelynn) and Nicole (Munger), and then they switched to a matchup zone,” Barnes Arico said. “And we just kinda got really stagnant. We didn’t really move the ball like we had been, and we got stagnant. And I think they took advantage of that.”
After forcing the turnover, Boilermakers’ coach Sharon Versyp called timeout immediately. The ensuing play — a 3-point look for Karissa McLaughlin coming off a screen — didn’t work, as the shot missed. Purdue didn’t win the ensuing scramble for the rebound either, playing it to a draw. The possession arrow rewarded the Boilermakers with the ball. From there, a baseline floater from Oden tied the game and sucked whatever life still existed out of Crisler Center.
Even with 0.7 seconds to work with, and even with sophomore forward Kayla Robbins at the free throw line, a loss felt preordained for the Wolverines. Robbins missed the free throws, but nobody can blame the loss on her doing so. When the second drew iron and bounced out, the buzzer sounded to mark overtime, but by then it was too late.
It had been six minutes and 48 seconds since Michigan last scored.