The Michigan women’s basketball team has struggled with defense thus far this season. But that all changed Monday night against Seton Hall.
In a game that was never close, the Wolverines won, 72-29, at Crisler Center as the defense stole the show.
“I thought we did a heck of a job on defense against them,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “An absolute heck of a job.”
Similar to its loss against Utah on Friday, Michigan (3-1) struggled to get its offense going early, but this time, the defense compensated.
“The keys for us were to come out strong on our home floor and score quickly,” said Michigan senior forward Kate Thompson. “We also wanted them to push them on defense and we did a really good job of that.”
The Pirates did not score until 7:19 into the first half, and by then they had already committed eight turnovers. Seton Hall (2-2) finally scored on a 3-pointer from freshman forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith, and that would be the Pirates’ only field goal until senior guard Brittany Morris connected on a short jumper with 22 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I think Seton Hall really struggles shooting the ball, but they do a great job of rebounding the basketball after their misses,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought we did a good job of limiting them to one shot, which is a really good sign for us. We’re typically not a great rebounding team.”
After taking a comfortable 35-6 lead at halftime, the Wolverines went into the locker room having outrebounded Seton Hall, 21-14, forcing 12 turnovers and holding them to 2-for-26 shooting. It was the first time since Nov. 12 against Xavier that Michigan allowed fewer than 10 points in a half, and the second stanza showed more of the same.
Thompson opened up the second half with a 3-pointer from the right corner and hustled back on defense to force Seton Hall’s 13th turnover. The Wolverines’ defense did not stop there, holding the Pirates without a field goal until 8:30 into the second half and limiting them to nine offensive rebounds.
“People were tracking the balls down,” said Michigan senior guard Jenny Ryan. “If they didn’t get (the rebound), they’d tip it to a teammate. It was a real team rebounding effort.”
The one bright spot for Seton Hall was the foul line where it went 10-for-13. The Pirates used their success there to spark a small run in the second half, but Michigan’s defense was too much to handle. The Wolverines ultimately limited the Pirates to 15.5-percent shooting, while forcing 24 turnovers.
“I know everybody keeps telling me about (all our) turnovers, but we did hold (Seton Hall) to under 30 points, so let’s start with the positives,” Barnes Arico said. “We had a 40-point win, we held them to under 30 points, and we outrebounded. That’s pretty darn good to me.”
To Barnes Arico, it didn’t matter that Michigan turned the ball over 24 times. It didn’t matter that the Wolverines continued to struggle with offensive rebounds, recording only eight tonight, or that Michigan didn't always make its shots.
Because its defense was always on.