Sometimes a team’s best player does not perform up to expectations. On days when this happens, the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack.
Going into the season, Michigan women’s basketball coach Cheryl Burnett said that Tabitha Pool would be the team’s cornerstone. So far through the early season, Pool has indeed been the leader for the young Wolverines. In Saturday night’s game she struggled a bit, but her teammates stepped up their play to lead Michigan to a 68-48 victory over IUPUI.
With Pool having an off day, four other Michigan players scored in double figures and spurred the team effort.
“That balance is a wonderful thing to have,” Burnett said. “We have a lot of players playing hard and we’re executing much better.”
Freshman point guard Becky Flippin set the tone for the balanced effort. She scored the first five points of the game, draining a quick 3-pointer to start the game and then sprinting ahead of the pack for an easy layup. After those fast five points, Flippin went on to score seven more for a career-high 12 points.
“Coach really said in practice what we need to do and how we’re going to do it,” Flippin said. “(Freshman) Krista (Clement) and I kind of had a little bond time before the game and that’s what we thought we would do.”
With Flippin providing an early scoring threat, Pool was able to get free. Although she struggled from the field — shooting just 5-of-17 — she was able to create opportunities for herself and the team. She scored four straight points, then dished out an assist on Clement’s 3-pointer to put Michigan up 14-7.
“I thought Pool did like she is supposed to do,” IUPUI coach Shann Hart said. “She was a leader for the team and making the people around her better.”
Although Michigan did not shoot well from the field — 37 percent for the game — the Wolverines were able to create scoring opportunities with their defense. Michigan forced 26 turnovers, which led to 31 points.
“I thought that they did a good job on defense of trapping in the half court,” Hart said.
With the defense creating more opportunities, the Michigan offense capitalized. Using quick ball movement, the Wolverines wore out the Jaguars. Fluid ball reversal and skip passes led to high-percentage layups for Michigan. Two of the recipients of those layups were freshmen Ta’Shia Walker and Katie Dierdorf. Walker came off the bench to score 11 points in 14 minutes while Dierdorf chipped in 10 points. Dierdorf gave Michigan a solid post presence that provided the Wolverines increased flexibility in their half-court offense.
“Our ball movement was a lot a faster tonight,” Flippin said. “We worked it around the team to get a lot of shots.”
Burnett recognized Michigan’s struggles on offense in the second half, but also saw progress being made. She believes that her team is starting to look to the right places on offense and getting some good possessions. Those productive possessions and a balanced effort are giving Burnett’s team confidence heading toward the end of the nonconference slate.