Michigan freshman guard Brenae Harris took a step inside the arc, elevated for a shot and dropped it through the basket as the final buzzer sounded at Crisler Arena.
But all the buzzer beater did was put an exclamation mark on the Michigan women’s basketball team a 72-44 victory over Indiana State.
Though the Wolverines led by 20 points at half, they had to go to the bench early. With 11:43 remaining in the first half, junior guard Nya Jordan picked up her second foul and was forced to sit.
Harris saw an increase in playing time during the stretch as a substitute and used every minute of her five first-half minutes. In the second half, when Michigan led by more than 20 points, Harris played 10 more minutes.
“I think kids like Harris have to play,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “She’s got athleticism and she can do some things that we want to be able to do defensively.”
Harris has averaged six minutes and 1.8 points per game this season. On Saturday against the Sycamores, she also scored eight points in 15 minutes of playing time — both career highs. But Harris’s contributions off the bench were most notable defensively.
“I think the key to the defense starts with your point guard — if your point guard can pressure, that’s where your defense starts,” Borseth said. “Having (Harris) do that obviously helps us, and we were glad to see her get a chance to demonstrate some of those things.”
Harris swarmed the ball, pressured the Indiana State guard bringing the ball up the court. That pressure led to Harris’s two steals — tying a career high set on Nov. 25 against Washington State. The freshman’s quick hands and speed helped Michigan tally its 15 total steals.
Redshirt sophomore Kendra Seto also saw an increase in playing time. Seto, who has averaged seven minutes per game, recorded 16 minutes on Saturday and scored five points.
“(The bench) played phenomenal,” said junior guard Jenny Ryan. “They brought us energy, they scored, and they did all the little things. They’re just as capable as any of us on the floor.”
Borseth added: “Fresh bodies supplying pressure are going to be able to help you.”
The Wolverine bench accounted for 36 points — about 50 percent of Michigan’s total points. Though the bench players were on the court for the majority of the second half, Michigan were able to increase its lead. Michigan went into the half with a 20-point lead, led by as much as 33 in the second half and finished with a 28-point win.
With Big Ten season right around the corner, the experience that the young players got on Saturday will be critical. The situation might not have been a high-pressure one, but the bench showed it’s more than capable if needed.
“(Playing more minutes) affects our development tremendously because we get the experience,” Harris said. “When we’re in real situations and it’s a tougher game, we’ll be able to handle it.”
During the Wolverines’ final non-conference game on Dec. 22 against Illinois State, the bench players will likely see significant playing time, which will prepare Michigan for its Dec. 30 game against Illinois — the start of Big Ten play.