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Michigan women’s basketball in the Big Ten Tournament and beyond

The No. 17 Michigan Wolverines survived Penn State last Thursday but then fell to Ohio State in the quarterfinals.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

After ending their regular season 21-8, the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines earned the five seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

After earning the first round bye, they drew the #13 Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State took Michigan down to the wire, but the upset fell one basket short.

Guards Leigha Brown and Laila Phelia returned to action, but the Wolverines still struggled with point production and turnovers. But perhaps the most uncharacteristic performance was the 61% shooting from the free throw line. Michigan, a team usually competent at the line, went just 8-of-13 last Thursday.

The Wolverines were up with seven minutes left in the game when both teams went on a four-minute scoring drought. Phelia hit a three with just over three minutes left to give Michigan its largest lead of the game of nine. Then the Nittany Lions went on a 9-2 run and had the final possession. Penn State missed the game-tying jumper and Michigan survived.

No. 14 Ohio State, the four seed, was up next. The Buckeyes took both wins in the conference season, so Friday presented the Wolverines with another chance to take a game back. It ultimately wasn’t in the cards, as they took their exit after losing in the quarterfinals.

It was a high scoring first half for the Buckeyes, but Michigan wasn’t far behind as each were within a few possessions of each other through the first quarter. The Wolverines produced only 17 points in the second but were still within six heading at halftime.

The Wolverines came out hot in the third quarter, posting 22 points while locking the Buckeyes to 18 points to flip the script. They cooled off some in the final 10 minutes of the game, but the majority of the fourth quarter was back and forth.

In the waning minutes, it was tied at 76 all until the Buckeyes hit a three. They jumped out to a five-point lead until guard Maddie Nolan hit a three to pull Michigan within two with one minute left. Michigan missed both of its attempts to tie the game in the final moments and Ohio State took the 81-79 win.

After accumulating some solid wins in the beginning of the season, Michigan looked poised to shoot to the top of the conference heading into its packed Big Ten schedule. However, the top of the conference proved to be the Achilles heel to Michigan’s hopes. Those in the top four went 6-0 over Michigan during conference play. Wisconsin was the only other Big Ten team to collect a win, which it did in the regular season finale.

The Wolverines will now wait to see where they head in the NCAA Tournament. Current projections have Michigan as a No. 6 seed, sharing the side with Indiana as the 1 seed. Despite the seeding, Michigan should do some damage purely based on how competent this conference has been this year. Bracketology has seven bids from the conference and with a league that strong, Michigan is fully capable of beating anyone.

Hopefully after coming up short on some of their season goals, they’ll be reignited to wreak some havoc in the tournament. Some time to recuperate and get healthy should put Michigan in the best position to make another run.

Conferences across the country are wrapping up their respective tournaments, so Michigan’s fate will be revealed within the week. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show for the women’s tourney is this Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.