Even after her team’s 75-64 loss to Xavier on Sunday in the Provident Bank Xavier Invitational, Michigan coach Sue Guevara was greeted at practice yesterday by a sight that actually brought a smile to her face. Three of her freshmen guards, Lauren Andrews, Mie Burlin and Niki Reams had beaten her there and were already shooting around.
Michigan’s backcourt received a brutal wake-up call this weekend from Xavier’s seasoned duo of Reetta Piipari and Amy Waugh. The senior tandem rained down a combined 41 points on the Wolverines, reminding the freshmen just how far they have yet to go.
Depth off the bench has been one of the strengths the team has been able to lean on thus far this season, even though it is relatively inexperienced.
“I’ve been pleased with the contributions our bench has made,” Guevara said. “We have enough quality kids that I can go deep on the bench and still maintain.”
Just as the rookie backcourt seemed to be cutting down on the ball-handling mistakes that had hampered them in their first few games, Michigan turned the ball over 37 times in its two games this weekend. Add to the fact that leading scorer Jennifer Smith was out because of a knee injury, and it seems lucky that Michigan was able to squeak out a win on Saturday over Saint Louis.
Michigan’s bench will be put to the test again tonight at Oakland, its third game in four days. The Wolverines still expect to be without Smith, who has been a major force down low for the Wolverines, averaging 20 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 66 percent from the floor.
Smith’s injury will force senior LeeAnn Bies to carry much of the workload for the team. After struggling offensively most of the season, Bies finally exploded for 31 points. But her contribution couldn’t remedy everything in the loss.
“Having Jen out for a few games definitely switches things up a bit,” Bies said. “We have to redistribute roles and find a new way to adjust.”
The lack of Smith inside factored noticeably in the Wolverines’ offensive scheme. With its two big bodies inside, Michigan has faired well running a high-low style offense. That aspect of the game almost disappeared in Sunday’s gameplan.
“If you take away (Smith’s) 20 points and nine rebounds, is it going to have a little bit of an impact? Of course it will,” Guevara said. “We have to make a few adjustments in the way we attack teams now.”
Today’s game is also Oakland coach Eileen Shea-Hilliard’s first matchup against Michigan, where she was an assistant coach under Guevara.
“I think just because Eileen was an assistant here, there will be a little more emotion going into it,” Guevara said.