For the first three quarters of the season, the Michigan bench had little impact on games.
But now Ashley Jones and the Wolverines are finally answering the call.
The Wolverine reserves have played 60 minutes in each of the last two games compared with the season average of 46 minutes. The bench picked up 24 points last night’s 72-36 win.
Junior Ashley Jones led the bench in scoring with eight points in 21 minutes. She also contributed five rebounds.
“(Jones) brings a lot of diversity to our team,” Michigan center Krista Phillips said. “She’s a big person. she can rebound, but she can also handle the ball. She earned her opportunity, and she’s doing really well.”
The Southfield native has seen a large boost in her playing time, seeing the floor for 26 minutes against Indiana Sunday. Borseth praises her for being a patient player, one who waited her turn on the bench. She is an athletic player and one of the reasons why the Wolverines played much more aggressively against the Boilermakers.
Michigan picked up 47 total rebounds compared to an average of 33 per game. The Wolverines also forced 20 Purdue turnovers.
Sophomore Stephany Skrba and freshman Veronica Hicks also came off the bench and played important roles in the game, combining for 12 points. Skrba has been a contributor all season, averaging 16.6 minutes and six points a game. But Hicks has picked up more minutes of late with eight minutes against Purdue and nine against Indiana.
As the season comes to a close, the bench’s increased output offers the starters an opportunity to freshen up for key points in the game.
“It gives us a certain confidence to bring people off the bench and have these people do good things for us,” Phillips said. “We never had a break in our play, and we never had a dip.”
Weakness no more: The Wolverines outrebounded Purdue by 14 – impressive for a team that ranks 10th in the conference in rebounding and dead last in offensive rebounding. The Wolverines picked up several rebounds that they normally wouldn’t, hustling to the ball and sacrificing their bodies to get possession.
No one player dominated statistically, but every player on the roster – other than sophomore Sireece Bass, who played just two minutes – had at least one rebound.
Michigan’s improved rebounding has come at just the right time. Sunday’s opponent Illinois, leads the Big Ten in defensive rebounding.
Offense Also Shines: Although the Wolverine defense clearly stole the spotlight, the offense played an equally important role.
Michigan played well in all facets of the game, especially down low, where it outscored the Boilermakers 19-7 in the first half. Phillips had her way in the paint, scoring a game-high 15 points, and was complimented by guard Janelle Cooper, who sliced through the Purdue defense for 13 points.
“We’ve got to bristle up and get closer to the rim, toughen up a little bit,” Borseth said. “(Today), I think our players lowered their center of gravity and shot it closer to the rim rather than shooting it from the outside, which helped us.”