No. 13 Michigan State women’s basketball scored 83 points against the Big Ten’s best defense — one of which held opponents to just 58.6 points per game — on Monday.

The only problem? No. 6 Indiana responded with a 92-point performance against the Wolverines’ own usually stingy defense. Thanks bad bounce and weak protectionMichigan couldn’t get a win Monday night.

“We were able to score on pretty much any possession we wanted,” fifth-year forward Leigh Brown said after the loss. “I think the key is just getting defensive stops.”

With a conference-leading 83 points, it’s safe to assume the Wolverines had a solid offensive game. But in reality, although the final numbers were there, the chemistry was not. That inability to press has plagued them in many losses this season.

While shooting 48.2% from the field, Michigan had just a paltry seven turnovers, which pales in comparison to the 17.4 turnovers the Wolverines boasted on Monday.

“I thought (the lack of assists) was key, and we talked about it after the first quarter because we didn’t have any,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes of Arico said. “…Usually when we move the ball a little bit more, we’re a little bit more successful as a team. And our assists have really, really grown this year, and today’s numbers are certainly disappointing.”

In the third quarter, as in the first, “Wolverines” did not make zero assists. In the two frames in which Michigan did share the ball, it outscored Indiana by three points — a stark contrast to the Hoosiers’ 12-point lead in quarters where the Wolverines had zero turnovers.

Monday’s performance can be attributed to many reasons: Michigan has more of a four-guard rotation than in recent years, bench players are earning more minutes but don’t yet have perfect chemistry with the starting lineup, and graduate forward Emily Kizer is playing with a broken nose.

But whatever the reason, the Wolverines still haven’t achieved complete stability.

“We want to make them score in a way that they don’t normally score,” senior guard Maddie Nolan said. “Obviously, we don’t want them to score at all, but if they are going to score, it’s not going to be easy. And we didn’t do that.”

In the middle of conference play, Michigan is desperate to correct deficiencies on Monday to win in the Big Ten — either in the regular season or in the tournament.

Because when a team has a versatile offense — one of two in the country with three players averaging 16+ points per game — and the second-best defense in the conference, both sides of the ball have to live up to their end of the bargain.

Against No. 10 Iowa a few weeks ago, the Wolverines struck again. But Michigan’s defense squandered an impressive performance, just as it did against Indiana afterward allowing more than 90 points.

Against No. 2 Ohio State less than a month ago, the Wolverines held the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense well below average. But that was Michigan’s offense could not keep upon the flip side of the litany of seasonal lows.

“Coach talked a lot about (how) we’re going to cut (the deficit) and then make some mistakes that aren’t really part of our game,” Nolan said after the loss to Indiana. “… We would have stopped it, but then on the other hand, mentally we were able to lock in and focus on stopping what they wanted to do, and we just couldn’t do that consistently tonight.”

Wolverine has the pieces. Michigan has 3-point shooters in Nolan and sophomore guard Greta Kampschroder. It has three tiers of scorers in sophomore guard Laila Felia. It has lethal shooting and passing in the backcourt in the form of Brown, and a talented scorer and passer in the form of graduating forward Emily Kizer. It has a strong defensive backfield led by Felia. He has an ever-expanding bench that passed in moments big and small.

What the Wolverines still lack, however, is the level of cohesion they will need to win and build momentum in tough matches as the season progresses.

“Iowa and Indiana are two pretty good offensive teams,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re talking about two top-10 teams in the country, and we’re in single digits with both of them. So I think we’re pretty damn close.”

Michigan came close many times. He has been reachable in all three ranked losses thus far. But the Wolverines just couldn’t overcome their deficit. Whether or not Michigan can push may depend on how it performs the next time it faces a tough task.

Wolverine has building blocks. They showed excellent attack, solid defense, respectable rebounding and powerful passing. Consistently putting it all together in tough matches is the final cornerstone.

Source link