Michigan ready for battle of Washtenaw County

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By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 10, 2012

The 21st Battle Washtenaw County is upon us, as the Michigan women’s basketball team takes on Eastern Michigan (1-7) on Tuesday.

Separated by just seven miles, the two teams will face off in a non-conference game in Ypsilanti.

The Wolverines are a week removed from a big victory over Illinois State, but even with the time off Michigan (7-2) is poised to win back the county. The Eagles have won the last two meetings between the two teams including a 67-59 victory in the 2011 WNIT and a 77-59 win last season.

Despite its recent lack of success against Eastern Michigan, Michigan leads the all-time series 12-8, and plans to add to that Tuesday. The Wolverines hope to build off their success against Illinois State.

“Anytime you win on the road against a quality opponent it’s a great victory,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I was really happy with that. We are ready to move forward and build off of that.”

The victory over the Redbirds was also Michigan’s best rebounding game this season.

The Wolverines grabbed a season-high 42 rebounds, and sophomore forward Nicole Elmblad had a career-high 10 rebounds. In addition, Michigan’s opponents have averaged 32.7 rebounds per game, but the Wolverines held Illinois State to only 24 rebounds.

“I think we rebounded exceptionally well,” Barnes Arico said. “We (also) limited them to second-chance points, so we did a great job there (too).”

Rebounding has been a huge issue for the injury-depleted team. And now that the Wolverines have started finding success on the boards, it's time to focus on turnovers, which continue to be a problem as Michigan averages 15.1 per game.

“We have to get better at pressure,” said senior guard Rachel Sheffer. “We (also) missed a lot of layups and turned the ball over by traveling. (But) all of this leads to turnovers and (we) know we have to work on that.”

Eastern Michigan will have to force as many turnovers as it can to help slow down senior forward Kate Thompson’s hot hand. Thompson had a game-high 18 points against Illinois State, and leads the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game.

Senior guard Jenny Ryan will also make the Eagles’ task more difficult. Ryan averages 12.9 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, and 3.8 assists per game.

“It (was) big for our season and big for our team,” Ryan said. “(That was) a very good Illinois State team, so it was a key win for us.”

Meanwhile, farther down Washtenaw Avenue, Eastern Michigan is coming off a heartbreaking 66-65 loss to South Dakota State. The Eagles are 5-4 against the Wolverines on their home floor, and know they can turn their season around with a win.

Eastern Michigan will need redshirt senior guard Miranda Tate to continue stepping up. Tate has scored a team-high 14.4 points per game, and the Eagles also have junior forward Olivia Fouty’s 10.7 points per game and team-high 8.3 rebounds per game.

Though they’ve only won one game this season, Eastern Michigan has been resilient in every matchup. Besides a large 23-point loss against Wyoming, the Eagles average defeats by 6.1 points, showing they are a few shots away from victory.