By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 11, 2012
The Michigan women’s basketball team hits the road Monday for the first time this season.
After winning their home opener against Detroit, the Wolverines (1-0) head to Cincinnati to face Xavier (1-0). Despite the victory, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico says her team has a lot to work on going forward.
Against the Titans, the Wolverines led by as many as 18 points but faltered on defense down the stretch, allowing Detroit to cut the lead to five with just 34 seconds remaining.
“I thought we ran out of gas a little there in the second half,” Barnes Arico said. “We could have fallen apart because they kept making runs, but we kept making big plays or free throws down the stretch.”
It’s not just the second-half defense that Michigan has to improve on, but also its bench play. In their home opener, the Wolverines’ starters scored 68 of the team’s 70 points.
Highlighted by a double-double from senior center Rachel Sheffer and a career-high 18 points from sophomore forward Kate Thompson, Michigan relied on its starters throughout the game. But its bench has to step up if Michigan wants to be competitive, Barnes Arico said.
“Obviously our bench needs to get deeper,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s what I told them after the game (against Detroit). They have to spend more time in the gym, so that way I feel confident getting them in the game.”
Plagued by injuries, the Wolverines’ thin bench almost became a liability when their lead was cut to five. But it was Michigan’s strong shooting that helped cloak its injuries. The Wolverines shot 50 percent beyond the arc on 11-for-22 shooting.
“The strength of our team is obviously our outside game,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re not going to go away from (that).”
Even though outside shooting is a strength, Michigan loses the rebounding battle when the shots don’t fall. Against Detroit, the Wolverines grabbed 33 rebounds, but only five were offensive. With size an issue, Michigan has to transition better on defense to avoid size mismatches—and ultimately improve its rebounding, Barnes Arico said.
“(Against Detroit) in the first half when we scored we went back to (zone) defense, on a miss we went to man,” Barnes Arico said. “In the second half we went on (a) large stretch where we didn’t score, and we went back to man and that’s when they were picking us apart.”
The Wolverines will need to continue working on transition defense because Xavier also heavily relies on its outside shot. In its close victory over Bucknell, the Musketeers drained 24 3-pointers grabbed 41 rebounds.
Xavier coach Amy Waugh will rely on sophomore forward Lakeisha Crouch and junior guard Shatyra Hawkes to slow down the Wolverines’ offense. Despite losing their top rebounder from last year, the Musketeers will look to rebounding as their first point of attack, as Waugh said Michigan will be a “good test” for her team.
“We were down ten rebounds in the first half (against Bucknell) to be able to come back in the second half and only lose by two on the boards was a great stat for us,” Waugh said. “Going forward rebounding will continue to be a point of emphasis.