Though Wednesday’s battle with No. 4 Duke ended in a double-digit loss, the Michigan women’s basketball team can find a silver lining in its performance. After the Blue Devils took an early 17-point lead in the first half, the Wolverines responded with an impressive 18-4 run to close the lead to two points at halftime.
During the seven-minute run, Michigan was firing on all cylinders and proved its ability to compete with an elite team. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico praised her team’s tenacity, but ultimately, it was the Wolverine’s 20 turnovers that led to their downfall.
“We know that (taking care of the ball) has been a weakness for us,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s something that we continually work on every single day.”
While the Blue Devils’ ball-hawking defense could be credited for most of those turnovers, Michigan’s guard play can also bear some of the responsibility. Thankfully for the Wolverines, Duke is currently the highest-ranked team on their schedule and will likely be the biggest challenge they face all season.
But that doesn’t mean Michigan can ease up now, as they face a tough Florida team on Saturday. The Gators and their lock-down defense come to Ann Arbor after a 74-58 loss to Arizona State in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas. Victories over N.C. State and Northern Iowa placed Florida in the final round of the tournament, where they scored season-low 22 first-half points in the loss.
Senior forward Jennifer George, who averages 13.5 points per game and was a preseason Naismith Award candidate, leads the Gators in scoring with 954 career points. George is helped by junior guard Jaterra Bonds, who has started 40 consecutive games and who averages 3.7 assists per game. Florida head coach Amanda Butler has compiled a 103-69 record in her six years as coach and faced the Wolverines once last season, losing a close 69-66 season-opening contest.
Saturday’s game provides Michigan senior forward Rachel Sheffer with a tough matchup against George. Sheffer, who leads the team in scoring, only scored eight points against Duke, struggling against reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Elizabeth Williams.
Another Wolverine looking to make an impact will be senior guard Kate Thompson, who averages 14.6 points per game but went 3-for-10 from the field against the Blue Devils. Thompson leads the team with 6.7 rebounds per game, but was held to only two boards in the loss.
“Teams are going to focus on Kate and we know that,” Barnes Arico said. “We told Kate early on to expect their best defender to guard her.”
Michigan will need the offensive production from it’s seniors, but more importantly it will need their leadership. It’ll be imperative that the Wolverines keep their composure against Florida to allow their youthful squad to execute Barnes Arico’s game plan.
“You can’t worry about the name on the front of the opponent’s jersey, all we need to worry about right now is Michigan,” Barnes Arico said. “Let’s worry about Michigan getting better every single day and let’s not worry about who we’re playing.”