They’ve tried every trick in the book, but if nothing is working on the court, it’s time for Michigan women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara to get inside her players’ heads.
After starting the Big Ten season 2-6, Guevara resorted to the age-old practice of wiping the slate clean. She wants her players to walk into tomorrow’s game against Iowa as if their record is 0-0.
There’s just one problem: They’ve tried this before – and it didn’t work. After stumbling out of the gate 0-2 in the conference season, Guevara told her players to brush it off and start fresh. A loss at Purdue ensued, but two victories over Indiana and Northwestern quickly followed. That was Jan. 23. The Wolverines have dropped three straight since.
The psychological move is an honorable one by Guevara, who knows all too well the importance of her players’ mental states. Now all they have to do is buy into it.
“We want to go on a winning streak,” junior center Jennifer Smith said. “So I guess 0-0 is what we’re thinking.”
It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to actually believe it. This is a team that has been battling the past all season.
The memory of last year’s 6-10 Big Ten record after a 10-1 start is all too fresh, and it’s eerily similar to this year’s collapse after a 9-2 start. Not only is Michigan trying to spark something to lean on this year, it’s also trying to avoid falling into last year’s rut.
“I hope they believe me, but I’m not the one out on the floor,” Guevara said. “We have kids that have been through this before, and I don’t think it’s something they want to repeat.”
Smith is one of those players who was there last year, but her play hasn’t shown any signs of mental distress. She’s led the team in scoring the last two games and has scored in double figures for six straight games.
The key to Michigan’s success may rest in the hands of those who weren’t around last year. Freshman Niki Reams has been quietly consistent coming off a wrist injury, but she put up a loud 15 points against Wisconsin. Point guard Rachael Carney seems to have won the respect of the entire team since earning the starting role midway through the season. These freshmen don’t know the pain of last year and don’t wrestle with the fettered memories some of the upperclassmen may have.
“This team has the motivation to turn things around and will do everything possible to turn things around,” Smith said. “Last year, we may have just let things go.”
Everything seems to be in place. Michigan has its share of solid upperclassmen who know the ropes and its share of contributing freshmen who don’t know what the critics are saying.
“When you’re in a streak like this, you have a lot of people giving you advice,” Guevara said. “There comes a time when there are some people you just have to clear out. As a team, we will listen to each other and go from there.”
Now the Wolverines just have to look past all those old distractions – and their record – and get ready for a “new” season.