It seems odd that a team would just now start becoming comfortable with its own identity this late in the season, but that’s what the Michigan women’s basketball team is taking the time to do.
After earning their first Big Ten victory over Indiana Sunday, the Wolverines have used this week’s practice to reflect on how they won and figure out how they’re going to do it again against Northwestern Thursday.
“We’re just really working on our execution in the half court and our defense,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “We’re focusing more on us than we are with Northwestern or anyone else.”
Michigan opened the conference schedule 0-3, forcing Guevara to make changes in the Wolverines’ gameplan. The most noticeable modification came Jan. 12 against Purdue. Guevara’s starting lineup did not include her senior co-captain, forward LeeAnn Bies, but it curiously included freshman Rachael Carney, an anonymous point guard normally found at the end of the bench.
Guevara stuck with her lineup after the 69-52 loss at Purdue, and Carney took the floor as Michigan’s starting point guard once again in Sunday’s game against Indiana.
“We needed a vocal leader out on the floor,” Guevara said. “Rachael has exhibited the leadership that this team needed, and they’re very comfortable with her out there.”
While Carney’s stat line may not have been packed after the game, she seemed to secure the position that three freshmen have been battling for all season.
“The upperclassmen expect Lauren (Andrews), Mie (Burlin) or myself to run the team when we’re out there at point guard,” Carney said. “At the same time they lead other aspects of the game.”
While Carney was emerging in the starting backcourt, Bies needed a game or two to adjust to coming off the bench. Just as she did with Carney, Guevara stuck with her plan and brought her forward off the bench even after a flat game against Purdue. The strategy worked, and Bies led the team with 19 points.
Guevara attributed Bies’ success to a number of factors. Watching the early minutes of the game from the sidelines has given Bies the chance to watch the flow of the game develop before she actually jumps in and starts throwing elbows. She also usually subs in for senior co-captain Raina Goodlow, whose game has a little more finesse and is quicker than Bies’ bruising style. The contrast gives Bies the chance to get to work before the opposing team has adjusted.
The new role doesn’t seem to concern Bies.
“I’m playing. We won. That’s all that matters,” Bies said.