It was just another inbounds pass after just another shot during just another game.
Senior forward Jillian Dunston to senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, like always, towards the end of the third quarter as Michigan held onto a one-point lead.
Except for one twist: on this inbounds pass, Flaherty was knocked down by the player defending her, falling to the ground as Dunston tossed the easiest pass in basketball out of bounds. It was a crescendo of frustration in a game that seemingly featured nothing but.
Still, the No. 23 Michigan women’s basketball team (3-2 Big Ten, 14-4 overall) escaped Crisler Center with an 84-79 win over Indiana (1-4, 8-10) on Wednesday night — a victory the Wolverines didn’t especially deserve and shouldn’t be especially happy about.
Michigan came into the fourth quarter down by one and came all too close to finishing behind an inferior Hoosier squad.
The two teams went back and forth to start the final quarter, trading baskets until the 7:07 mark. That was when — after grabbing her own offensive rebound — junior forward Nicole Munger drew a foul on a putback attempt, the fifth on Indiana’s Amanda Cahill. Cahill hadn’t just been providing an offensive spark — 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting — she was also one of the few Hoosiers able to compete with the Wolverines on the glass. Without her, a major advantage turned into a area of utter dominance for Michigan, which finished the contest with a 38-18 rebounding advantage, including six in a row to end it.
Munger hit both free throws to tie the game at 61 and, without Cahill, the game’s complexion changed. Though Indiana took the lead its next time down, the Wolverines grabbed it right back off a Munger 3-pointer that fell through the basket after two offensive rebounds extended the possession. Next time down, junior center Hallie Thome found Dunston out of a double-team in the post, who promptly swung it to freshman forward Hailey Brown in the corner for another triple.
Michigan wasn’t out of the mud yet, though. The Hoosiers led the Wolverines with as few as four minutes to go in the game after a Buss layup gave Indiana a 71-69 lead.
With Indiana face-guarding Flaherty — a now-common deterrent to the program’s all-time leading scorer — and double-teaming Thome in the post, the Wolverines turned to Brown.
She delivered, nailing an elbow jumper off the catch to tie it at 71 for her 22nd and 23rd points of the night, a career-high.
At that point, it was Flaherty’s turn to get in on the action, drawing a foul in transition and hitting both free throws. The Hoosiers didn’t hold another lead the rest of the way.
Make no mistake, however, Michigan got away with one. The Wolverines turned the ball over 22 times, their highest mark since November, while coughing up over 75 points for the third time in four games.
“I just think we weren’t locked in and focused,” Munger said. “…Ohio State, we came out extremely locked in and extremely focused, and I think we just need to do a better job of taking that next step and being mature — like a mature team — and taking every scout and knowing every scout like completely.”
Barnes Arico touched on the seeming lack of preparedness as well, attributing it to a tightly packed schedule.
“We played (last) Thursday — so we traveled Thursday — we played Sunday, we played Wednesday, we play Saturday, we play Tuesday,” she said. “Count those days and count how many games and travel — three of those on the road — that (isn’t) that much time.
“Not a lot of time to practice, not a ton of time to prepare. Trying to figure out the fine line between rest and preparation. And using our experience to make sure we’re prepared and following the scout instead of reps. And tonight, I didn’t think we did a great job of that and I even called our older kids out on that. ‘Hey, we gave you a day to rest your legs, but then you gotta follow the scout. Or else we’re gonna practice.’ ”
One thing is clear: Michigan can’t deliver a similar performance again and expect to get away with it consistently. The Wolverines are about to embark on a two-game road trip, facing a solid Nebraska team and Ohio State, a top-10 program that beat Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday.
Simply, if the Wolverines play like they did Wednesday, they’ll return home under .500 in Big Ten play.