By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 20, 2012
If the Mayans are right and the world is ending tomorrow,at least the Michigan women’s basketball team can be content it did something that it had never done before. In what may be the Wolverines’ last game ever, they went out on top, collecting their first-ever win over Valparaiso, 73-32 with their offensive prowess on display.
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After falling to the Crusaders in their only other matchup in 2002 in the Women’s NIT, the Wolverines (10-2) took round two in convincing style to even up the series, leaving a split in a series that the Mayans say will never be broken.
While Michigan came into the game with four days of rest in between games, Valparaiso (3-7) had to endure its second game in 24 hours after playing at Western Michigan on Wednesday.
The difference in energy was evident from the start as the Wolverines scored the first six points of the game, forcing the Crusaders to call an early timeout after less than two and a half minutes of action.
Michigan’s lead reached double digits, 10, at the 14:48 mark after senior guard Kate Thompson splashed her third 3-pointer of the game through the net. The sequence leading to the score epitomized the Wolverines’ style of play: senior forward Nya Jordan collected two offensive rebounds on missed shots by senior forward Rachael Sheffer and Thompson before Thompson nailed her second chance.
Shooting without a worry about tomorrow, Michigan went on a 21-3 run to push its lead to 37-12. Led by Thompson, who scored 12 points in the first half and 18 in the game on six 3-pointers — tying a school record that she set earlier in the season — the Wolverines coasted to a 44-17 halftime lead, the Wolverines’ largest one-half total this season.
Combined with seven points by Sheffer and six points each by senior guard Jenny Ryan and senior forward Sam Arnold, the game was everything but over at the half. The senior trio combined for 33 in the game, including 10 each for Sheffer and Arnold.
While not scoring in the first half, Jordan grabbed nine rebounds including four of the offensive variety to create opportunities for Michigan. Jordan would grab five more rebounds in the second half to create a new career high of 14.
With a bevy of chances created by 21-11 rebounding edge, the Wolverines shot 58.6 percent from the field and 7-of-14 from 3-point distance in the first half. They finished the game with 40 rebounds, compared to 26 for their opposition.
For the third straight game, Michigan was able to post a season-high amount of bench points with 19, led by the trio of Arnold, freshman guard Madison Ristovski, and sophomore guard Brenae Harris, who combined for 15 points at halftime — almost equaling the team’s previous season-high of 18.
The Wolverines’ dominance carried over to the second half as they continued to get in the paint and nail 3-pointers to keep their lead to between 25-35 points before extending it into the 40-point range in garbage time.
With seven second-half points and 13 total points to go along with a team-high seven assists and four steals, Ryan was able to get some rest with 8:33 left in the game and enjoy her teammates’ continued dismantling of the Crusaders from the bench.
As a whole, the team finished the game shooting nearly 52 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range.
Assuming the world doesn’t end tomorrow, Michigan’s next game will be Dec. 29 against Niagara.