Though the Michigan women’s basketball team’s defense was formidable in Monday’s 72-29 victory over Seton Hall, the Wolverines (3-1) will need to maintain their fervor as they continue a five-game home stand with contests against Harvard and Boston University this weekend.
Michigan, which suffered its first loss of the year at Utah last Friday, bounced back on a short week by blowing out the Pirates. While Tuesday’s lopsided win allowed the Wolverines to regain some lost confidence, the team understands it has a lot more work to do
“I think for a lot of it we’re going to have to handle pressure better,” said senior forward Rachel Sheffer. “Credit to Seton Hall, they really pressured us really well and they never gave up. I think that’s just a glimpse of what the Big Ten is going to do to us, so we just have to work on handling pressure better.”
Against the Utes, Michigan was unable to gain momentum on offense and shot a mere 36 percent from the field. The Wolverines sluggish start on defense also allowed Utah to take an early lead, pressuring Michigan’s shooters the remainder of the game.
To prevent a similar scenario against the Crimson and Terriers, the Wolverines will rely on an offensive attack led by Sheffer. As the team’s leading scorer, Sheffer is averaging 16.3 points per game and has recorded 28 rebounds thus far. Her athleticism on the block has been one of Michigan’s biggest strengths this season, highlighted by a dominant performance against Seton Hall where she recorded her fourth game scoring in double-figures.
“I think just being a senior and being experienced that’s kind of what you expect,” Sheffer said. “You want to be on the floor and you want those minutes. Once you have them you want to keep them, so you never want to let up.”
Equally important will be the play of senior guard Kate Thompson, who scored a career-high 19 points against the Pirates. Thompson is averaging the second-most point on the team with 14.0 points per game. In addition to being a talented shooter, Thompson has also grabbed 22 rebounds this year. Against Seton Hall, the combo of Thompson and Scheffer provided the majority of Michigan’s offense, combining for 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting.
The Wolverines will need a balanced attack against Harvard (3-1), who will enter Crisler Center with a three-game winning streak. With a win in their last outing against Holy Cross, the Crimson matched the school’s best start to a season. Harvard led the Ivy League in field-goal percentage and three-point percentage through the first three games of the season, shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 51.2 percent from behind the arc.
The Crimson is led by junior guard Christine Clark, who has led the team in scoring through its first three games. Clark’s offensive talents are supplemented by senior forward Victoria Lippert, who was named Ivy League Player of the Week on Nov. 19. Against BYU, Lippert scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, sealing the win by scoring five points in the last minute of the game.
Boston University (2-2) is led by senior guard Chantell Alford, who earned her second consecutive America East Player of the Week Award on Nov. 19. Alford, who averages 21.3 points per game, scored a career-high 30 points in Boston’s loss to No.22 West Virginia last week. The Terriers will also rely on senior guard Morgan Mo, whose 10 points per game is second most on the team. BU conceded its second loss of the season to Northeastern on Tuesday and will play at Eastern Michigan before its matchup on Friday with the Wolverines.
This weekend’s back-to-back home games should provide a good challenge for Michigan, who will face No. 4 Duke and a competitive Florida team next week. It will be a good test for Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico’s squad to prove in the non-conference slate that they have the energy it takes to be a competitive team in the Big Ten.
“We have to keep the energy up regardless of how we’re feeling,” Scheffer said.