At halftime of Michigan’s matinee affair against Florida (5-3) on Saturday, two groups of Girl Scouts lined the areas of the paint, shooting layups in a battle of fierce competition. These close shots on the hoop showed a strong resemblance of the style of play of a traditional team with two forwards on the court would play like.
Coming into the game, Michigan (6-2) had averaged 16 three-point attempts per game — led by senior guard Kate Thompson, who has attempted seven shots from distance per game. Though the Wolverines would end up attempting 21 in the game, while making eight of them, Michigan finally looked like a prototypical team with two big men on the court at the same time in their 59-53 victory over Florida.
While Thompson is a key to the Wolverines offense due to her 51-percent shooting from long range, Michigan needed to adjust to the Gators’ depth of height to have a chance against them.
Just was the case in the first half as the Wolverines matched Florida’s point in paint with 14 each while making seven out of 16 shots. Despite trailing 32-27 at the half, the different style of play allowed Michigan to stay in the game.
With Thompson positioning herself underneath the hoop, waiting for passes down low to make an easy basket to start the game, the Wolverines seemed to have a second force down low to compliment the play of senior forward Rachel Sheffer. Case in point, Thompson’s first three baskets came off of layups and close-range bank shots.
After playing against No.4 Duke, a team that Michigan had a tough time matching up against because of its size, strength and athleticism, it was a welcoming sign to be able to post up near the basket and find success down low.
This pattern carried over to the second half, as the Wolverines were once again able to match Florida with 10 points in the paint.
A major reason for Michigan’s sudden presence in the paint was the introduction of senior forward Nya Jordan into the starting lineup. In her first start on Wednesday against the Blue Devils, Jordan was instrumental in the Wolverines only getting outrebounded by one against a team that had outrebounded its opponents by 16 a game.
On Saturday, Jordan provided the rebounding, Michigan desperately needed against Gators, who boast five player of six feet or taller. Jordan collected 11 rebounds in the game including three on the offensive glass to help the Wolverines outscore Florida 32-21 in the second half. Playing 35 minutes, Jordan provided the inside play that Michigan needed without leading rebounder Sheffer on the floor because of floor trouble.
Sophomore Nicole Elmblad also provided rebounding for the Wolverines, scooping up nine rebounds to go along with six points.
“We needed Nya to be able to get in there and mix it up,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Her and Nicole did a tremendous job on the rebounding end for us.”
In addition to Jordan and Elmblad, senior forward Sam Arnold stepped up for Michigan. Though her stats may not dictate a huge impact on the game, Arnold’s minutes to spell a foul troubled Sheffer provided the extra boost that the Wolverines needed to win.
“I thought Sam gave us great minutes. Rachel got in foul trouble and Sam really had to go in there and pick it up for us,” said Barnes Arico. “She did a tremendous job of keeping things together when Rachel was out for a long stretch there, so I was really proud of the minutes that she gave tonight. She is someone that really has to give us good minutes.”