By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 27, 2013
All season long, whenever Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico has been asked to describe her squad, she’s always pointed to the same thing: the seniors.
For the Michigan women’s basketball team, a team coming off of its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 10 years, a team that has suffered six ACL injuries over the past calendar year, it’s relied all year on five players for the bulk of its scoring – its seniors.
For one last home game, the Wolverines (8-6 Big Ten, 19-8 overall) will rely on the group again. Playing in front of the Crisler Crowd for its final time, the quintet of forwards, Rachel Sheffer, Kate Thompson, Nya Jordan and Sam Arnold and guard Jenny Ryan will try to end their four-year run in Ann Arbor in style against Northwestern (5-9, 13-14).
Michigan enters the game coming off of back to back losses to then-No. 24 Nebraska and then-No. 7 Penn State that were caused by three different scoring droughts of seven-plus minutes. The most notable one was a 21-0 run by the Cornhuskers that opened up their lead to 17 in the second half of last Thursday’s loss.
“I just think (Penn State and Nebraska) sets the bar (in the Big Ten) and hopefully our kids see that if you want to be at the top of our conference, this is where we have to be,” Barnes Arico said. “And to play those two teams back-to-back, I think going into the tail end of our season and the tournament, it really shows our kids that where we are and (that) we’re not that far away.
“But being close and winning those games is two different things.”
For the Wolverines to bounce back from these losses, they’ll have to once again rely on their seniors, who have accounted for 84 percent of their scoring, tallying 1,392 of Michigan’s 1,661 points.
Leading the way for the Wolverines is Thompson who averages 15.4 points per game and is coming off of a career-high 25 points against Penn State. The only other Wolverine to score in double digits against the Lady Lions was Jordan who contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds for her eighth-career double-double and sixth of the season.
In the teams’ last game in January, the pattern was the same, as Jordan and Thompson, provided the bulk of the Wolverines’ offense, combining for 35 of the team’s 67 points. Thompson carried the burden, scoring 23 points, including seven 3-pointers – a program record.
A key element in that game was Arnold, who scored eight points off the bench to make up for Sheffer’s light night of production.
On the other side of things, Northwestern is coming off of a 54-52 victory over Wisconsin, which saw the Wildcats come back from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
Northwestern is led by three-time reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week winner Maggie Lyon, who led the Wildcats with 13 points in her last game.
Lyon is Northwestern’s second-leading scorer with 12.7 points a game, trailing only senior forward Kendall Hackney, who averages 14.1 points.
To complete the Wildcats’ double-digit scorers is senior forward Dannielle Diamant, who leads the team in rebounding with 7.7 per game to go along with 12.1 points per game.
While a pregame ceremony will commemorate the seniors’ work and accolades associated with the program, the Wolverines’ mindset entering the game remains the same as it has all season long.
“We’re going to treat this next game as any other game, come out as hard as we can and play as hard as we can,” Thompson said. “It’s important not to put too much emphasis or overthink things. We just have to come out and get the win.”