After her first win as the Michigan women’s basketball coach, Kim Barnes Arico stood proudly at center court, her arms draped around her recently adopted players, and a smile stretching ear to ear as she sang the “Yellow and Blue.”
Though Friday night’s game against Slippery Rock was only an exhibition, the Wolverines made a statement in their 106-35 blowout, commencing the Barnes Arico era.
One of the biggest questions for Michigan coming into this season was their offense, but Friday’s performance may have revealed some answers. Despite graduating two of their top scorers in Courtney Boylan and Carmen Reynolds, the Wolverines filled the voids with contributions from nine of their 11 players against Slippery Rock. Michigan shot an impressive 64.9 percent from the field in the first half, while hitting 19-34 in the second half.
“Our entire team has really been focusing on shooting,” said senior guard Kate Thompson. “We’re getting lots of shots up and keeping balls alive with offensive rebounding.”
Thompson, who made her first collegiate start, scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and stole the ball twice during her 27 minutes on the court. A talented perimeter shooter, Thompson has been challenged by Barnes Arico to step-up in her senior year and become one of the team’s go-to players.
“I was expecting us to play really well, but what I really loved to see was our ball movement and working together,” Thompson said. “We were on point with cuts, people saw the open cutter and we had a lot of assists.”
Sophomore guard Nicole Emblad, who dropped 20 points during her 31 minutes on the court, led the Wolverines in scoring. Emblad, who scored a mere 2.4 points per game last season, started the game for Michigan and is expected to be one of its best shooters this year.
Barnes Arico is known for running an up-tempo, transition offense and has said that she will bring a style similar to the one she implemented with success at St. John’s. One of the most important positions in a fast-paced offense is the point guard, an area where the Wolverines fortunately have exceptional depth. Friday’s exhibition allowed Michigan to try various lineups and allowed for a few different players to lead the offense.
“I want the kids in the program to know that if they do really well in practice, they’re going to have the ability to start,” Barnes Arico said. “I think (the lineup) is a game-to-game situation.”
Sophomore guard Brenae Harris impressed her first collegiate start, opening the game with a 3-pointer from the corner. Harris, who is known for her defensive strengths, finished the game with 16 points after shooting 7-of-8 from the field. The speedy combination of Harris and freshman guard Madison Ristovski, who scored 10 points, was an effective lineup for the Wolverines throughout the game.
“We’re going to go into every game with the same focus, executing the same plays,” Harris said. “Playing hard for 40 minutes is what we’re going to do this season.”
Michigan’s leading scorer from last season, senior forward Rachel Scheffer, provided 10 points and seven rebounds on the night. Scheffer will continue to be a major post presence for the Wolverines, who scored 62 points in the paint against Slippery Rock. Michigan’s other leader, senior guard Jenny Ryan, added 13 points after being named this season’s team captain before the game.
“There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she is the person that we want to lead this team,” Barnes Arico said. “She is a coach on the floor, she’s a coach in the locker room and she just has a burning desire and passion to be the best at everything she does and to make our team the best.”