Last year, sophomore guard Jenny Ryan was named the Michigan women’s basketball team’s Defensive Player of the Year. Whenever Michigan needed a defensive stop, Ryan was often the one who made it happen.
This year, Ryan’s defensive tenacity hasn’t changed. But after Michigan’s 85-76 loss to Xavier (2-0) on Monday night, it’s clear that one part of Ryan’s game has changed significantly: her offensive ability.
Ryan scored a career-high 13 points for the Wolverines (1-1) and was Michigan’s second leading scorer behind senior guard Veronica Hicks. She was also tied for second on the team with four assists.
But Ryan’s newfound offensive ability is no coincidence.
“Jenny is much better offensively,” Hicks said at Michigan Media Day last month. “She has been working a ton on her shot, so she is going to be nailing some shots. It’s not that she couldn’t shoot before, but she’s got that confidence now.”
That confidence showed for the first time last night. In a game in which the Wolverines needed to have their best effort, both offensively and defensively, Ryan stepped up big in a losing effort. She finished 6-for-8 from the floor, including one 3-pointer from NBA range that brought much of the crowd to its feet.
Ryan has been waiting a long time for the opportunity to showcase her ability.
“I remember last year, specifically the Northwestern game in the Big Ten Tournament, they challenged me to shoot it, and I didn’t make it,” Ryan said. “Ever since that moment, I became frustrated because it felt like everyone in the Big Ten knew my weakness was that I couldn’t shoot it. So I went in the offseason and really just broke down my shot to the basics.”
Her work has paid off, and it has shown in terms of her stamina too. Ryan was the only Wolverine to play all 40 minutes Monday night — in just the second game of the season, when most players are still trying to get back into game-shape.
“It’s just all about confidence,” Ryan said. “The first game of the year (against Alcorn State last Friday) felt comfortable to me. The shots didn’t go in but they felt good. So this game, now that I’m starting to hit a couple, hopefully that will keep rolling over and my confidence will be okay.”
And on a young, inexperienced team, the Wolverines sure could use it as they inch closer to the beginning of the Big Ten season.