By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 6, 2013
After losing to Ohio State in Columbus on Sunday, the Michigan women’s basketball team had to play the waiting game to see where it would finish in the Big Ten and whether it would receive a first-round bye.
Ultimately, after Michigan State beat Wisconsin, the Wolverines’ placing was sealed – they will be the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament that begins Thursday in Hoffman Estates, Ill, a Chicago suburb.
While a first-round bye wasn’t granted to Michigan (9-7 Big Ten, 20-9 overall), a matchup with last-place Indiana (2-14, 11-18) was.
The Wolverines have played the Hoosiers twice already this season, and they have beaten them in dominant fashion in both affairs.
In the teams’ first matchup, which opened up Big Ten play, Michigan used a 15-2 run that spanned the end of the first half to the beginning of the second to extend its lead. The Wolverines would win 65-48.
Michigan’s leading scorer was senior forward Sam Arnold, who contributed a career-high 17 points off the bench. In addition, senior forward Nya Jordan chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards, for her first double-double of the season.
Senior guard Jenny Ryan almost achieved the first triple-double in program history, scoring 11 points, collecting eight rebounds and handing out nine assists.
An important aspect of that game that carried over to the teams’ next game was Michigan’s rebounding advantage.
After out-rebounding the Hoosiers in their first game, 36-27, the Wolverines were able to tally 38 boards in the second meeting, including 11 by Jordan to go along with her 10 points. Ryan also had 10 points and seven rebounds, while senior forward Rachel Sheffer tallied 19 points and six rebounds in the 61-43 victory.
For the Wolverines to have success again against Indiana, a similar type of play might be necessary.
“We’ve got to be sure that we push the ball,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We (need to) go inside and rebound.”
While Sheffer posted solid stats in her two games against the Hoosiers, she’s also played well of late, scoring 36 points and collecting 14 rebounds over Michigan’s last two games. She was the team’s leading scorer in both games.
“Rachel’s coming off a great game at Ohio State so she’s playing really well right now,” Barnes Arico said. “I think that’s definitely something we need to take advantage of.”
Though Indiana struggled for most of the season, it did manage to pull out a one-point victory over in-state rival Purdue in late February for one of its two conference victories.
“I’m sure they’ve improved,” Barnes Arico said. “They got a great win against Purdue. They’re a quality team, and we know that we better be ready to play.”
Senior forward Aulani Sinclair and senior guard Jasmine McGhee, who averaged 15.9 and 12.8 points, respectively, in the regular season, lead the Hoosiers. McGhee also boosts the team in rebounding, averaging 5.8 per game. Junior forward Milika Taufa also averages that amount per game.
Sinclair has been the Hoosiers’ leading scorer in 17 games this year and has had four scoring outputs of 30-plus points, including two games ago against Iowa. Shutting her down will be a key for the Wolverines.
While a matchup with fourth-seeded Michigan State looms for the winner, both teams are focused on Thursday night’s contest
“We know now that it’s survive and advance so it’s a one-game season so we better be ready to go,” Barnes Arico said.