The first time the Michigan women’s basketball team played Ohio State this season, it turned the ball over 27 times. The Buckeyes forced a multitude of those giveaways through the full-court press.
Preparing for the second go-around, the 12th-ranked Wolverines knew they would have their hands full dealing with No. 16 Ohio State’s pressure. Michigan dedicated the bulk of its practice time to preparing for that press, yet once again the Wolverines committed 27 turnovers — many of which came at the hands of the press once again — in a 74-61 loss to the Buckeyes.
“(The press break) is pretty much all we worked on for the last two days,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the game. “We just got to get better at handling that pressure and decision-making. And there were spurts where we were good at it and then I think it wore us down and to start the second half we weren’t very good.”
After starting out strong against Ohio State’s pressure, the Wolverines collapsed to start the third quarter with five turnovers against the press and nine overall — their most of any period. It was in that quarter that the Buckeyes began to pull away for the final time, thanks to all the turnovers they forced.
But it hasn’t just been against Ohio State that Michigan has struggled against the press. Things have gone awry for the Wolverines against the press all season, with 10-second violations, sloppy passes and a lack of help leading the way.
In the following four clips, The Daily breaks down some of those issues:
The first time the Buckeyes pressed in the second half, Michigan couldn’t get the ball across halfcourt in 10 seconds.
In contrast to the first half, when three Wolverines frequently made themselves available to the inbounder and as outlet passes, there was nobody there to help bring the ball up. Sophomore guard Jordan Hobbs was forced to pick up her dribble with less than four seconds left to get the ball over the line. By the time enough outlet passes were available, the allotted 10 seconds had run out. Down by just one point when bringing the ball up, Michigan had a chance to retake the lead. Instead, the Wolverines squandered that opportunity by failing to get the ball across half court.
On Michigan’s very next possession, with a chance to make it a one-possession game, it once again turned the ball over facing the press, this time due to a travel near half court.
But dead-ball turnovers were something the Wolverines were willing to trade off instead of making errant passes that gave Ohio State a live ball. As part of its game plan, Michigan was willing to risk a 10-second call to avoid being burned defensively by a fast break on the other end. However, live–ball turnovers were abundant as well.
Here, the Buckeyes applied slightly looser pressure after a missed free throw. As the Wolverines nearly got the ball across half court, sophomore guard Greta Kampschroeder attempted a lofty cross-court pass that got intercepted. Meanwhile, freshman forward Chyra Evans was left open as she flashed to the middle to provide a nearer option. Ohio State missed the shot in transition, but Michigan wasn’t so fortunate after many other sloppy giveaways.
“Coming in we tried to talk about just staying calm,” Hobbs said. “And if the clock’s winding down, and the 10 seconds, you’d rather get a 10-second call, then … live-ball turnover. Just staying calm, and we didn’t do that today.”
All told, in the third quarter alone the Wolverines turned the ball over five out of the 11 times they faced full-court pressure. And even on the limited possessions that Michigan did get the ball across halfcourt, it frequently struggled to set up its offense. The Wolverines only made three field goals in their lowest-scoring period of the game and turned the ball over nine times.
But Michigan’s struggles against the press weren’t just on display in Monday’s loss.
Against Michigan State, the Wolverines appeared overwhelmed by the man pressure they faced. That press was a large contributor to a slow start littered with errant passes and a 10-second violation.
In this man press, the trap came from the defender guarding the inbounder. Senior guard Maddie Nolan tried to get the ball back to the inbounder before the trap is applied. But junior wing Elise Stuck had already started running downcourt without looking to receive the pass and the ball fell right into the hands of a waiting Spartan.
Michigan eventually shook off the sloppy start and emerged with a comeback win. By slowing things down and taking better care of the basketball, as well as getting Michigan State into foul trouble — which forced it to call off the press — the Wolverines were able to settle into the game and mitigate their issues with the press.
Although Michigan was eventually able to mitigate the Spartans’ press, it only found sporadic success against Ohio State’s. The Wolverines started off against the press strong, with calm decision-making and infrequent turnovers that made it appear as if they had been able to work out the issues that plagued them the first time the teams met.
In this clip, Michigan made the easy passes. Nolan sent the ball back to the open inbounder, sophomore guard Ari Wiggins. Wiggins used her speed to take a few dribbles down the court before finding Evans, who flashed to an open spot at midcourt. Evans passed the ball off once more and fifth-year wing Leigha Brown was able to take advantage of the Buckeyes scrambling to get set up on the other end with a layup.
But those clean looks soon devolved as the Wolverines grew flustered and their deficit grew. Michigan eventually recentered, finding much more success against the press in the final period of the game. But it was far too late for the Wolverines to have a real chance at getting back into the game.
All year, the press has given Michigan fits. With the regular season coming to a close Sunday, the Wolverines might soon run out of chances to prove that they have learned from their season-long struggles.