Michigan finally through early-season gauntlet
After winning its first four games of the season, the Michigan women’s basketball team has since dropped three of its last four — including three games against ranked opponents.
The Wolverines (5-3), who haven’t had a home game since Nov. 19, will finally play at the Crisler Center after spending the last week and a half on the road. Being on the road so much can certainly have an impact — especially with such a young team — according to Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.
“Definitely I think these past couple weeks were really difficult, sometimes you forget that,” Barnes Arico said. “Then you add a young team on top of the travel and then they’re like, ‘My goodness coach, it’s exams and we’re on the road.’ At the circle the other day they were like ‘We thought this was going to be the coolest thing but really we just want to get back to the dorm so we can study for our exams.’
“So I think at Michigan academically, it’s so challenging that they’re just trying to stay afloat right now and try and be the best students they can be while at the same time be the best basketball players they can be.”
The Wolverines have had seven players log minutes in every game, four of whom are underclassmen: freshman guard Amy Dilk, freshman forward Naz Hillmon, sophomore guard Deja Church and sophomore forward Hailey Brown. To say youth is a major part of this team’s identity in the young season would be an understatement.
Barnes Arico, though, says she sometimes loses focus of her team’s inexperience and needs to remind herself that not all of her squad’s problems can be fixed right away.
“You know sometimes I forget this, but the Marquette coach (Carolyn Kieger) said this to me: ‘It’s amazing how good your team is after you lost the program’s all-time leading scorer (Katelynn Flaherty),’ ” Barnes Arico said. “And then I sometimes look at our team and say ‘Holy cow, we have Nicole Munger and Hallie Thome who are experienced kids and then we have all (these) kids that are trying to figure it out.’ … I sometimes need to have a little bit of patience with that.”
Michigan, which has four games remaining before the start of Big Ten play, will have the chance to get back on the winning track as all four of its upcoming opponents currently hold a combined record of just 5-26. This stretch begins Thursday when the Wolverines host LIU Brooklyn.
This stretch will be an important moment for the Michigan, as it will be the young players’ final opportunity to prepare themselves before conference play — when balancing youth and playing on the road will be the new normal.