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Wolverines handed first loss in lopsided defeat to Utah

By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 16, 2012

It took the Michigan women’s basketball team 6:15 to score its first basket, and in their second road game this week, the Wolverines were handed their first loss of the season in a 59-40 defeat at the hands of Utah (3-0) and its suffocating defense.

From the opening tip, Michigan (2-1) didn’t come out with the same fire it has had during this young season. By the time injured senior guard Jenny Ryan scored the Wolverines’ first points, the Utes were spotted a 15-point lead.

And what started out ugly only got uglier for Michigan.

In the first half, the Utes started off hot shooting 9-for-13 from the field. No matter what defensive looks it sent Utah, nothing worked. Senior forward Kate Thompson got into foul trouble early, and a thin bench behind her crippled the Wolverines. The offense didn’t help, turning the ball over eight times and only hitting one three pointer in the first half.

“I think they did a great job defensively of taking us out of game and getting us frazzled (right) away,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We had never been in a position like (being down 15-0) before so I don’t think we really knew how to respond to it. We couldn’t get anything going offensively.”

After a media timeout, the game began looking up for the Wolverines who were able to cut their deficit to nine after a layup by Ryan with 4:10 remaining in the half. Despite an offensive spark, however, Michigan was unable to close out the half letting Utah hit three straight three-pointers and end the half with an 18-point lead.

“We felt pretty good when we cut (the lead) to nine,” Barnes Arico said. “It didn’t matter, though, because we really couldn’t stop them when we needed to and we couldn’t make big shots when we needed to.”

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, nothing got easier in the second half. The Utes extended their lead to as large as 24. Led by junior forward Michelle Plouffe’s 20 points and redshirt junior forward Taryn Wicijowski’s 17 points and seven rebounds, Utah’s offense never let up.

Offensively, Michigan never got going, shooting 36-percent from the field and only 2-of-10 beyond the arc. The Wolverines turned the ball over 13 times and had just eight assists. It didn’t help that Ryan, who hurt her shoulder in practice this week, was playing limited minutes.

“Obviously with Jenny Ryan hurt it hurt us offensively,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s the heart and soul of our team and it hurt us not to have her playing her (normal) minutes.”

With Ryan playing just 23 minutes, senior center Rachel Sheffer stepped in as the lone bright spot in the game. The only Wolverine in double digits, Sheffer scored 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting. But despite matching up well on offense, the tough matchup of Wicijowski on defense proved to be too tall a task.

“I don’t think we were able to stop (Wicijowski and Plouffe) at all,” Barnes Arico said. “Both of them did an excellent job and exposed us early on. We knew they were going to be the two keys and we didn’t do a great job on them.”