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Posted on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

No. 23 Michigan women's basketball team goes cold at the end in 59-49 loss to No. 8 Penn State

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan's Rachel Sheffer dives for a loose ball and attempts to pass it to Nicole Elmblad during Michigan's 59-49 loss to Penn State on Monday, January 21, 2013.

Courtney Sacco |

With seven minutes to play against the No. 8 team in the country, the Michigan women’s basketball team was poised for a signature win. Trailing Penn State 46-45 and with the home crowd at the Crisler Center into the game, No. 23 Michigan looked like it might end the night alone atop the Big Ten standings.

It was a bad time to go stone cold from the field.

Michigan missed its next nine shots as the Nittany Lions put together a 12-0 run. The Wolverines wouldn’t score again until under a minute to play, but it was too late as they fell 59-49.

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“It was a quality team and they just wore us out,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I guess that’s why they’re probably No. 8 and we’re probably No. 23 at this point because they had four more minutes than we did.”

Michigan (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) had a counterpunch to everything Penn State (15-2, 5-0) threw at it all night, and even had a 35-34 lead five minutes into the second half.

But Penn State showed it could finish, ending the halves on 8-1 and 12-3 runs.

“The thing about Penn State is they score in bunches,” said Michigan guard Jenny Ryan, who had seven points and six assists on he night. “I think it was just one of those games where their runs just came at a bad time for us.”

Michigan had one of its worse shooting nights of the season shooting just 27.8 percent from the field, and 23.1 percent from 3-point range. The Wolverines have averaged 46.5 percent from the field so far this season and 39.5 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

Barnes Arico attributed some of the off shooting night to fatigue and some to Penn State’s high-pressure style of defense, but Ryan didn’t think the off night was fully explicable.

“I think we got the looks that we wanted and I think that, from my point of view, I thought every shot was going in. I mean they hit the back of the iron, they went in and out, I think there were three or four that were half way down,” Ryan said. “So I don’t know if it was their defense on the last eight shots, but I do think we did get the shots we wanted it was just one of those days.”

Michigan couldn’t have asked for a better start as forcing Penn State into a pair of turnovers in their first three possessions defensively. Offensively, Kate Thompson got hot from the outside right away and Michigan jumped to an early 8-2 lead.

But after hitting her first two 3-pointers of the night, Thompson made just one of her next 12 attempts. She finished with 9 points, just the fourth time she's had less than 10 points all season.

“I think she got a little frazzled by them and then she got a little fatigued,” said Barnes Arico, who had no problem with Thompson trying to shoot through her woes, saying the senior (who was 7-of-10 from distance in the team’s last game) has the “green light.”

“If she’s not shooting it, who’s shooting it? And who’s making it?” Barnes Arico said.

Penn State responded to Michigan’s hot start with a 15-0 run of its own and Michigan only led again by one point for a brief moment in the second half.

Penn State’s dynamic backcourt combination Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley had 19 and 16 points, respectively. Lucas went cold to start the second half, but had a step-back, behind the back, crossover three as the shot clock was expiring that ignited Penn State’s final run.

Thumbnail image for sheffer-green.JPG

Michigan's Rachel Sheffer attempts a layup while defended by Penn State's Nikki Greene during Michigan's 59-49 loss on Monday, January 21, 2013.

Courtney Sacco |

Despite a considerable size disadvantage, Michigan was able to outrebound Penn State 20-19 in the second half after being outrebounded 22-14 in the first half. That was thanks in large part to Michigan’s Rachel Sheffer baiting Nikki Greene into her third foul less than a minute into the second half.

Sheffer ended with a game-high 20 points and had 10 rebounds as well. Even with Greene on the bench for much of the second half, Sheffer had to work for every inch.

“They have post players for days and they rotated post players in that could post anyone up,” Sheffer said.

The loss ends Michigan’s 10-game winning streak. Though the Wolverines have yet to beat a ranked opponent, Sheffer feels her team showed that they have what it takes to compete with the best teams in the Big Ten and the country.

“I think for the entire game leading into that (final seven minutes) I think we did an awesome job and it really showed a lot about our team,” Sheffer said.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

The boxscore link was faulty earlier, it has been fixed. Did anybody at the game see the young girl (8-10 seated near the UM band? The stadium camera crew was really slacking not getting her on the jumbotron because she had choreographed dances for every song all night. They only put her up on the big screen once and it was during the fight song, an underutilization of her talents. Like having Aerosmith tickets and only making it for "Jaded".

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

No, I didn't. Silly me, I took my son there to watch a basketball game. We'd go more, but the volume of all that canned music (they should let the band play more) and all those flashing lights really detracts from the atmosphere. And now, with that giant curtain thing, you can't hear the announcer any more because the acoustics are all off. It all sounds like the teachers in a Peanuts cartoon while your Aerosmith booms on a second-rate sound system with the bass set to 11 in the background.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

Aside from the poor shooting, U-M played a pretty good game. Yes, there were turnovers, but U-M got Penn State to turn the ball over, too. I think the coach got it right when she said, "It was a quality team and they just wore us out." I was afraid of a blowout, but they played with Penn State for 35 minutes, and if more shots had fallen, they could have won it. You have to be pleased with that kind of effort.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

They played quite well. Penn State plays man-to-man (never sure if I should use that term with the women's game) full-court pressure defense for 40 minutes, and has a nine-player rotation and considerable size. That will wear down any opponent. Yet the turnovers were pretty much even. Jenny Ryan struggled under all that pressure (Penn State really focused on her the entire game), but she kept plugging away. Really, if more of Thompson's 3-pointers had fallen, it would have been a nail-biter. She had good shots - they simply didn't fall. Ryan did a good job finding her on the perimeter. Thompson was way off with her accuracy, though, after the first two fell. I disagree with Ryan that they were in-and-out. Only once out of all those misses did I think the ball could have gone in. You have to let good shooters shoot their way through a slump. Michigan depends heavily on the 3-pointer, and that means there will be games like this once in a while. Rachel Sheffer battled through a lot, too, and that was as hard-earned a 20-point, 10-rebound result as I've seen in a while. Penn State is a legitimate top-ten team, and the Wolverines are just a little short of being able to beat them. Maybe they win 2 out of 10. That's pretty good. Sometimes, more shots will fall, but the Lions were hurt considerably with foul trouble, so they didn't turn in their best performance, either.

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

I think Ryan's offensive struggles were, more so than anybody, due to PSU's pressure defense. Penn State committed Dara Taylor to being her spy for the entire second half and Taylor did a masterful job for the entire 20 minutes. Ryan was great as a director on the defensive end, if not directly causing turnovers, getting the defense set to really give Penn State fits. The other players for the Wolverines I think just had an off shooting night while Sheffer earned the tough points and boards. I think coach Barnes Arico put it best when she said "that's why they're probably No. 8 and we're probably No. 23 at this point." Is Michigan good enough to beat Penn State? Yes, but Penn State is a better team on most nights and Michigan needs more things to go its way to upset this type of top team.


Tue, Jan 22, 2013 : 4:27 a.m.

Unfortunately, the Lady Wolverines played a poor game against the Lady Lions and endured their first conference loss. In the first half turnovers along with Penn States speed on the court led to many easy baskets that allowed several runs. During the second half Michigan protected the ball well but were unable to sink their 3-point shots (half of their shots during the game were outside the 3-point line). The Lady Wolverines were unable to attack the basket as well as the Lady Lions. Furthermore, almost a quarter of Michigan's points came from the foul line which helped keep the score close. Despite poor execution and careless ball handling Michigan was not blown away. If the mistakes that cost Michigan today's game can be eliminated and if Michigan's shooting percentage is not again as miserable as it was today then Penn State can be beat, even on their home court, on February 24th. Meanwhile we can hope that Michigan can start another winning streak against less formidable Big Ten teams.