ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan women's basketball team fell 62-49 to Valparaiso in a first-round Women's NIT matchup Wednesday (March 13) at Crisler Arena. U-M's poor shooting (18-57 FG, 13-21 FT) kept the Wolverines (17-13) from coming from behind against the Crusaders (25-6), who never trailed. Michigan played without head coach Sue Guevara, who was with her ill mother. Associate head coach Angela Jackson filled in as the acting head coach for the game.
Three Wolverines had double-digit point performances, led by Jennifer Smith (Lansing, Mich./DeWitt HS)
with 20 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Stephanie Gandy (Detroit, Mich./Northern HS)
added 12 and LeeAnn Bies (Lakeview, Mich./Lakeview HS)
In the opening minutes of the game Michigan could not find an answer for Valparaiso's Marlous Nieuwveen as she had eight of the Crusaders' first 12 points. The 6-5 center hit three layups and a jumper to put U-M behind 12-4 with 15:43 remaining in the first half. The Wolverines converted on only 2 of 8 shots from the field in the early going while Valparaiso was 6 for 8.
Michigan cut its deficit to 14-11 with five straight points, but a two-minute scoring drought allowed Valparaiso to reassert its lead as it held an 18-12 advantage with 11:04 to play in the half. Then a 9-4 run allowed Valparaiso to push its lead to double digits, 27-16, with 7:30 remaining. Michigan trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half on account of two Valparaiso three-pointers. In the final minutes of the half, Michigan stiffened on defense, not allowing a bucket inside the 3:33 mark, and cut the deficit to 33-25 at halftime.
The key statistic in the first half was the assist-to-turnover ratio. Michigan had only two assists while turning the ball over 11 times compared to nine assists and only six giveaways for the Crusaders. The Maize and Blue was able to control the boards, however, as it out-rebounded Valparaiso 23-14. Smith led Michigan in the first half as she had 12 points and five rebounds. Valparaiso was carried in the opening session by Nieuwveen, who led all scorers with 18 points while also collecting four rebounds and three steals.
Highlighted by a steal and layup by Gandy, Michigan scored the first five points of the second half to cut the Crusader lead to 33-30 and force a timeout. Four more points from Smith lengthened Michigan's run to 9-2 and cut the deficit to 35-34 with 17:12 remaining. A 6-0 run back the other way permitted Valparaiso to push its lead back to seven points. Over the next eight minutes, U-M missed many opportunities to get back into the game as it misfired on four of six free throw attempts while the Crusaders regained a nine-point advantage, 45-36.
Helped by their strong rebounding, the Wolverines fought back to trail by only four, 47-43, with just under six minutes to play. The Crusaders remained strong as they scored six of the game's next eight points to hold a 53-45 advantage with four minutes left in the game. With an offensive foul coupled with two ensuing Crusader free throws, Michigan was down 57-47 with 2:17 remaining. Valparaiso iced the game with free throws in the final minutes as Michigan scored only two more points and fell 62-49, tying the highest point differential of the game.
N O T E S
Jennifer Smith ended the season with three straight 20-point performances. It marked the first time in her career that she accomplished that feat.
Michigan's 18 offensive rebounds marked its third highest total of the season. U-M grabbed 24 against Washington State (Dec. 7) and 19 at Washington (Dec. 9).
Michigan's .619 (13-21) shooting from the foul line against Valparaiso dropped the Wolverines' season free throw percentage five points to .756, a new school record. U-M was 480 of 635 from the line in 2001-02 to break the old mark of .755 (497-658), which was set the previous season.
Q U O T E S
U-M Associate Head Coach Angela Jackson
On the game in general ... "Valparaiso came in ready to play with a lot of intensity. They took us out of our offense. We didn't shoot very well. We're not going to win with 49 points and 18 turnovers."
On the team's play tonight ... "I thought we had some good stretches but a lot of lulls. We were ready to play but we didn't put it on the floor. We've seen some deny defense but they exaggerated it and we can't duplicate that kind of pressure in practice."
On not having head coach Sue Guevara on the bench ... "When you're used to one way it's different. It was different for me because I was the one standing up rather than sitting down like I usually do. We felt Sue's presence she just wasn't in the building. She called a lot to check on the game and she followed it at home."
On finishing the season on a down note ... "We just didn't get going offensively. We played very well at the Big Ten Tournament and I feel we can build on that but we just didn't perform today."
Sophomore Center Jennifer Smith
On next season ... "We need to work hard a as team in the off-season, and the off-season starts now. Another thing we can work on is maintaining our confidence and bouncing back from adversity better."
Sophomore Forward Stephanie Gandy
On area of improvement ... "We need to be better prepared game in and game out. We also need to be much more consistent over the course of an entire season."
Valparaiso Head Coach Keith Freeman
On the game ... "I thought our defense was the key, and even in the first half 10 of their 24 points came off of second shots. We played good defense throughout but it was our rebounding in the second half that gave us the edge. We were able to eliminate what they did on the perimeter and really slow down their ball movement."
On Valparaiso's defense ... "The thing about our defense is that if you're not used to it then it's difficult to play against. All it is is the old Dick Bennett stuff where we are denying every pass. It takes teams out of their rhythm and their timing is off with their set plays."
Valparaiso Guard Katie Boone
On the play of Marlous Nieuwveen ... "She was a big target and we did a good job of finding her. Our posts really worked hard and when we got them the ball they really converted."
Valparaiso Center Marlous Nieuwveen
On extending her season ... "I think it's great that I get to play with this team longer. I love this team and I hope we can get a couple of more games in and, with some luck, go all the way."
Contact: Rich Marion (734) 763-4423