Correction appended: Feb. 25, 2013.
It looked like it was going to be another blowout win at home, then Michigan came storming back.
Thanks to tenacious efforts on the defensive end –– which held the Wolverines scoreless for a span of 7:03 in the first half –– the No. 7 Lady Lions (23-3, 13-1 Big Ten) jumped on top early and never looked back, en route to a 68-57 win on senior night at the seventh annual Pink Zone. With the victory, the Lions clinched at least a share of the conference title for the second time in as many seasons.
A jumper by redshirt senior Mia Nickson at the 17:03 mark of the first half helped to ignite a 22-2 run and propelled the Lions in front. That paired with significant scoring numbers from a multitude of Lions’ players made it difficult them to get back in the game.
“I think anytime you start the game the way we started, it's hard to come back against a top team in the country and I believe that they are a top team,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes-Arico said. “They have incredible balance, they have incredible depth, and you know it's hard to stop one kid because another player will make a play.”
The Lions did just that and made it difficult for the Wolverine defenders to key in on a particular shooter. While junior guard Maggie Lucas led the Lions with 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting from the floor, the squad also saw productive numbers from other players too.
Guards Alex Bentley and Ariel Edwards, along with Nickson also finished the afternoon in double figures, each chiming in with 11-points of their own.
Riding a 14-point lead into recess, it seemed like things were well in hand for the Lions who had not suffered a loss at home in the last 19 games. Then the Wolverines clawed back and at one point cut the deficit to just four points.
The crowd of 14,173 fans, including 621 breast cancer survivors –– the fourth largest in school history and largest to attend a Pink Zone game –– rallied behind the Lions and really started to come alive once their squad’s lead continued to trickle away.
With the danger of the lead being erased any minute, the Lions needed a big shot to break their five-minute plus scoreless drought and Edwards provided it. After a dish from Bentley, Edwards caught the rock out on the left wing and drained a 3-pointer. Her shot gave the Lions a seven-point lead and paired with a defensive stop on the next possession helped gain momentum back.
“It was a huge shot,” Lions coach Coquese Washington said. “They were making a run — making a push. In the second half, we never really got in the rhythm especially on the defensive end of the floor. They were making a push and that three-point shot was big, and then we came back with the big stop. That kind of gave our team a lot of confidence and momentum.”
In the final seconds Washington called a timeout and subbed out her seniors –– allowing them to take one final walk off of the court that they have called home for the past four years. Eleven seconds later the final buzzer sounded and the celebration began –– confetti and all.
“It was amazing,” Bentley said. “I always tell people that the Pink Zone is my favorite game of the year just because of the crowd and the atmosphere is amazing. Obviously, tonight was even more special with senior night and clinching the Big Ten, so it was all exciting.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the final results of Sunday’s women’s basketball game. The Lady Lions beat Michigan, 68-57.