- Nicholas Williams/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 27, 2013
It wasn’t surprising how much applause senior forward Rachel Sheffer received while accepting a ceremonial ball in a pregame ceremony to note her becoming the 23rd player in program history to score 1,000 career points. What was surprising was that Sheffer was held scoreless for the entirety of the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 63-57 loss to Iowa (5-2 Big Ten, 16-5 overall).
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After scoring 26 points against Iowa in their first matchup of the season earlier this month and being the Wolverines’ leading scorer the past two games by scoring a combined 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, it seemed that Sheffer would continue her hot streak, or at least contribute in a beneficial way the second time around. Instead, the four other Michigan seniors combined for 30 of the team's 32 points at halftime and 52 of 57 for the game.
Though the Michigan senior core carrying the scoring burden for the team is nothing new – they have combined for 82 percent of the team’s scoring this season – it has typically been with five scorers and Sheffer as the second-leading scorer with 13.2 points per contest.
On Sunday, with Sheffer posting her first scoreless game since her freshman year, the team relied on a senior quartet of guard Jenny Ryan, and forwards Nya Jordan, Kate Thompson, and Sam Arnold.
Ryan, who entered the game averaging 11.1 points per game, realized early on that her scoring would be needed for the Wolverines (5-2, 16-4). Throughout the season, Ryan has picked up her scoring when needed and continued that trend Sunday by posting a career-high 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field. She started almost immediately against the Hawkeyes, scoring Michigan’s first two baskets while assisting on the third to give the Wolverines an early lead.
“As a senior and as a person on the floor, I have to be a threat and that’s just what happened,” Ryan said.
Ryan wasn’t just a threat on the offensive end, as she took two charges in the first half including one right after the first basket of the game. Her play, combined with hot shooting from Jordan and Arnold, helped the Wolverines construct as much as a 10-point lead in the first half. The lack of offensive production from Michigan’s usual two leading scorers, Sheffer and Thompson, ultimately doomed the Wolverines.
“I think Jenny knows when Kate and Rachel are struggling that she really needs to step up, and she made every big time shot that she needed to make,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We just couldn’t get anyone else to make them.”
Though Thompson scored 10 points in the game, her effort wasn’t enough without production from Sheffer. After recording 23 points, including a program-record seven 3-pointers against Northwestern, Thompson has cooled off from behind the arc, making just 7-for-28.
“She’s going to have days like this,” Barnes Arico said. “When other teams are keying on her like this, other people need to step up. And when you have both her and Rachel having a bad day, it really hurts us.”
Without the duo’s inside and outside shooting working, the team basically had no real offensive plan that would work. It was strongly evidenced by the team’s dry spell from the field with seven minutes remaining in the game. Though they had a series of free throws fall for them, the team’s lack of depth at the point-guard position ultimately cost the Wolverines the game.
Michigan relied on Ryan, who played nearly 40 minutes for the third straight game and for the most part she came through. But as the game progressed, her tiredness from playing three games in one week seemed to catch up to her.
“I think I took her out for six seconds,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s probably all she’s going to get. I think obviously she’s worn out. I think the final four minutes of the game, she was worn down a bit.”