EAST LANSING —With 50 seconds left against Michigan State, down 64-61, Kim Barnes Arico called a timeout. Despite drawing up a plan, the Wolverines were unable to get off a shot, turning the ball over with 36 seconds left.
This left a blank stare of frustration on Barnes Arico’s face, as No. 21 Michigan women’s basketball (9-5 Big Ten, 20-7 overall) went on to lose, 66-61, to the Spartans (5-8, 15-11).
“We were trying to get Hallie (Thome) a touch in the post, first and foremost, because we felt like she was having a lot of good one-on-one situations,” Barnes Arico said. “Then when we didn’t have her to try and get Katelynn (Flaherty) off a flare screen to a rescreen. I think everybody became hesitant right there, a couple people had some open looks and then we just kept passing the ball.”
For the first three quarters, the Wolverines seemed to leave their talents in Ann Arbor.
Michigan was unable to sustain consistent play on either side of the ball. When the offense prospered, the defense was ineffective and vice versa.
After a 7-0 run to start the game, the Wolverines went cold. In the final eight minutes of the quarter, Michigan scored just four points. Excluding senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, the Wolverines were out of sync – resulting in a 21-11 Michigan State lead. Offensively, Flaherty was the only one who could convert, scoring nine of the Wolverines’ 11 points. To make matters worse, Michigan turned it over eight times and struggled in transition on defense, allowing Michigan State to knock down three 3-pointers.
In the second, the Wolverines picked up their offense by scoring 21 points. Unlike the first frame, Flaherty struggled and her teammates picked up the slack. Thome returned to form after posting just two points in the opening quarter, scoring 10 points – including six from the line.
Despite the offensive turnaround, Michigan’s defense was still horrendous.
The Wolverines allowed another 21 points as the Spartans were incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 50 percent from three and 53.3 percent from the floor. This impressive play had Michigan State up 42-32 at the half. When the teams last played each other, Michigan State scored 48 points in the entire game.
The second half wasn’t much better.
Just as Michigan cranked up its defense by allowing only 13 points in the third, its offense again went quiet. The Wolverines could only muster 13 points, holding the deficit at ten.
Michigan showed some resilience to open the final quarter by quickly knocking down two 3-pointers – cutting the deficit to four. But, the Spartans held tough and never surrendered their lead.
For the Wolverines, the game itself wasn’t the only loss. Freshman forward Hailey Brown went down with an unknown leg injury and her status is to be determined.
Michigan never seemed to find their groove. The Wolverines shot an abysmal 36 percent from the floor. To make matters worse, Michigan couldn’t hold onto the ball, committing 23 total turnovers.
“(Turnovers) that’s been really the problem,” Barnes Arico said. “We work on it every day. I think coming into the year we really knew that might be something that could be a problem for us because we weren’t returning a point guard.”
The only thing that kept the Wolverines in the game was their effectiveness from the free throw line. They knocked down 21-of-24; Thome accounted for nine of them.
Despite a successful season, Michigan has now lost three of its last four. And turnovers have been a big part of the poor play. If the slide continues, this could have them missing out on the NCAA Tournament, again.