For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Michigan women’s basketball team escaped the month of December unbeaten.
On Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines defeated Niagara, 82-44, to end the 2012 year on a sixgame winning streak.
In its first ever matchup against the Purple Eagles, Michigan (11-2) came out strong and built a 14-2 lead in the first 4:49 of play. During their fast start, the Wolverines forced Niagara (5-6) to settle for jump shots, while they got to the lane with ease.
During the first run of the game, it was the defensive presence that led the way. The defense forced two turnovers, while grabbing five rebounds and holding the Purple Eagles to two points in the first four minutes of play. But once the Michigan offense starting hitting its shots, it didn’t stop, ending the half with 45 points on 62-percent shooting.
After its slow start, Niagara went on a short run that cut the deficit to 11, but senior guard Kate Thompson would not let Michigan slow down. In the first 7:32 of the game, Thompson scored 11 of the Wolverines’ 20 points, and she ended the half with 16 points, and 21 points on the game. Shooting 66 percent from the floor, while adding seven rebounds, Thompson was on fire the entire afternoon.
In addition, the all-around play of senior guard Jenny Ryan, who had 14 points while adding eight assists and four steals, contributed on both sides of the floor. Senior guard Nya Jordan also stepped up with 17 points and eight rebounds.
The strong play of Michigan’s seniors is nothing new. In their first 12 games of the season, the Wolverines’ five seniors are responsible for 72 percent of the team’s offense.
Michigan began the season with rebounding woes, but in the last few games, the Wolverines have been able to fix their weakness, and tonight continued that trend — Michigan out-rebounded the Purple Eagles 39-23. Leading the way on the boards was Jordan and sophomore forward Nicole Elmblad, who each had eight boards.
Rebounding and offensive firepower was not what stood out in Michigan’s sixth straight victory — it was the turnovers. All season turnovers have been an issue for the Wolverines, who average 15 turnovers per game. Against Niagara, Michigan recorded just two turnovers in the first 11:10 of play, and only five in the first half.
But the second half proved to be more of a challenge, as the Wolverines turned the ball over three times in the first 4:33 of play. The turnovers led to an 11-2 run by the Purple Eagles to start the second half.
After back-to-back baskets by Michigan, it was able to stop the run, but its turnover woes continued — ending the game with 15.
The Wolverines’ victory marked their last non-conference game before their Big Ten season begins on Jan. 3 against Indiana.