You play how you practice. If this old adage holds true, Michigan women’s basketball coach Cheryl Burnett believes that her team will be prepared for its first regular -season game of the season today.
The Wolverines head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the Crimson Tide. Last year, Michigan lost an overtime thriller at home to Alabama 76-74. Much has changed for Michigan since that game, including the addition of seven freshmen to the roster. Burnett is excited to see how their play in practice will carry over to the game.
“I’m so impressed (with) what our players are learning in practice; they are thinking and doing (those things) on the court,” Burnett said.
But Burnett concedes that the team is extremely green. Even senior BreAnne McPhilamy, who is in her fourth year, does not have much game experience.
“She’s a starter playing quality minutes even though she does not have much experience,” Burnett said. “Of course there are the freshmen, but I’m very impressed how our players are thinking on the floor.”
To play well, Michigan will have to rely on what Burnett calls the cornerstone of the team — senior forward Tabitha Pool. Pool was the second-leading scorer last year and averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in two exhibition games this season. Lately the veterans — Pool, McPhilamy and sophomore Kelly Helvey — have had another important role for Michigan: Preparing the freshmen for their first road game.
“We are just being more vocal and letting them know what’s going on,” Pool said. “It’s kind of hard to hear the play with everyone screaming, so we just need to let everyone know what the play is.”
The Crimson Tide will be a formidable opponent for the Wolverines. Alabama returns four starters and three bench players from last year’s 12-16 squad. The Tide will rely on senior guard Monique Bivins, a second-team All-SEC selection last year. Although not as young as the Wolverines, Alabama is welcoming six newcomers this season, including four freshmen.
Alabama holds a significant size advantage over the Wolverines. Three of its players are 6-foot-3 or taller. To counteract this, Michigan has worked in practice and in the exhibition games on keeping an uptempo pace and attacking the hoop.
“We just have focused on our chemistry together and defense, getting up on the ball and deny passes leading to transition,” freshman point guard Becky Flippin said.
The Wolverines believe that if they do what they have done in practice during today’s game, they will be fine.
“It’s all about practice for us — doing everything possible in practice,” Flippin said. “So (our preparation) should show in the game.”