Despite the win, turnovers still plague Michigan
Danielle Rauch let out a sigh of relief.
The Michigan women’s basketball team led all but the first seven seconds of the game in its 82-59 over Wright State. To the naked eye it looked like the Wolverines — especially their offense — was firing on all cylinders. The team as a whole shot 49 percent from the field, including going 7-for-15 from 3-point range.
Firing on all cylinders, right?
Still, Rauch was relieved, knowing the ceiling of this team. She knew, despite the win, the Wolverines didn’t play nearly as well as their potential suggests. Thanks to sluggish starts to the first and second halves, the Raiders remained in striking distance — cutting the deficit to 12 at the end of the third quarter — for far too long.
“We just kind of let them speed us up a little bit,” Rauch said. “We wanted to just kind of settle, settle back down, get back to running our stuff, go back to what was working, and just play our game. We definitely want to be able to put two halves of really great basketball together in the upcoming conference (games).”
Once again, despite its efficient offensive performance, turnovers plagued Michigan. The Wolverines committed 18 turnovers against Wright State, adding to their average of 16.75 turnovers per game.
But they limited the damage done by some poor decision making — as they did in two of their three other games against Oakland and Central Michigan. Wright State had just 10 points off these turnovers. This was partly due to playing better at the end of the halves than the beginning. It also has to do with the lack of competition, outside of Notre Dame, they have faced thus far. Despite the turnover issues, they started the season 4-0.
Eleven of the 18 turnovers forced by the Raiders came off steals. Whether it was picking the pocket of junior point guard Amy Dilk or intercepting an errant pass or half-court heave, Wright State was quick to attack the ball. There were ample opportunities to turn these steals into fast break points, but the Raiders failed to do so. This will not be the case when Big Ten play starts.
The offensive turnovers coupled with trouble on the defensive end, specifically trouble defending the glass, led to some slight miscues. Junior forward Naz Hillmon typically dominates both ends of the glass, however, she was outsized by Wright State’s 6-foot-4 center Tyler Frierson. Hillmon was boxed out consistently, something that doesn’t usually happen, and the Raiders dominated the offensive boards with 26.
“(Better rebounding) as well as limiting turnovers, I think that's the biggest thing,” Rauch said. “Just kind of really honing in on making every possession count and taking care of basketball.”
This offensive rebounding discrepancy can be explained by Michigan’s switch to a 2-3 zone defense. With non-conference competition winding down, the Wolverines wanted to gain more experience playing in this scheme knowing they would give up offensive rebounds.
“They're a team that dribble penetrates very well,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “They got in the paint a lot in the first half. We wanted to make sure we protected the paint and try to take away their paint touches. We knew we were probably going to play them in zone, and it was good for us to work on that defense as well.”
Some of the sloppy play can also be attributed to the team’s effort to give their bench players meaningful minutes. With a highly competitive conference like the Big Ten, giving young players experience early in the season could be invaluable.
“I think we are very deep with a lot of experience,” Rauch said. “You saw today that people gave really great minutes. Everyone works extremely hard. We all trust each other. We're only as strong as our weakest link. We want to make sure that we're a balanced attack from one through 13.”
Despite winning by 23 points in the end and improving to 4-0 in the process, with one non-conference game remaining, there are still plenty of kinks to work out. This was a win, but it also wasn’t against a Big Ten quality opponent. The Wolverines will need to shore up the turnover issue if they expect to achieve their goal of a Big Ten championship. It's yet to be seen if there will need to be more sighs of relief in the future.
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