There were snowflakes falling outside of Crisler Arena Wednesday night, but despite the frigid temperature, the Michigan women’s basketball team managed to make it rain on the Demon Deacons.
The Wolverines shot 66 percent from the floor, including 52 percent from the three-point line in their 91-58 victory over Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons’ offensive firepower was a big concern for the home team coming into the game. The big question was whether Michigan (4-3) could run with the offensively minded Wake Forest team (5-2) and slow down its explosive offense. This question was answered early on when senior guard Veronica Hicks scored eight unanswered points in a little over a minute to put the Wolverines up by 10.
The tone was set, and the lead was never relinquished.
“I just knew that we were at .500 and already lost a game at home, and you really don’t want to lose a game at home,” Hicks said after the game. “So, it was like, whatever needs to be done for us to get this win, is what needs to be done.”
After scoring zero points in Michigan’s 67–49 loss to Texas A&M last Saturday, Hicks stepped up big in a game the Wolverines really needed to win. She finished with 13 points, going 3-for-5 from behind the arc.
“She feels like she has to do well every game,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “I’m glad to be able to see her, especially after last game, to come back tonight and have a good game.”
It was junior forward Carmen Reynolds who came up the biggest, though. Reynolds led all scorers with 25 points, 15 of which came from beyond the three-point line. The Wolverines got the ball into the post often, which forced the Wake Forest players to collapse defensively. Nobody benefited from this extra room more than Reynolds.
“Their defense gave us pitch-rhythm threes and Carmen is one of those kids that can make those shots in the game,” Borseth said. “She is a tough kid to leave open.”
Though Michigan scored a season-high 91 points, its defense may have been more impressive than its offense. Wake Forest came into this game featuring the 13th-best offense in the nation, averaging 84 points a game. The Wolverines forced 19 turnovers and rarely allowed the Demon Deacons an open shot, holding them to a season-low 58 points. Wake Forest is particularly strong in transition, but Michigan slowed the game down to the pace it wanted to play in.
“We didn’t want them to get transition conversion shots, so we practiced getting back on defense and avoided letting them make any layups on fast breaks,” Reynolds said. “I think that really converted to the offensive end as well.”
Sophomore guard Nya Jordan and sophomore center Rachel Sheffer also played key roles. Sheffer scored 15 points, and provided an exceptional post presence. Jordan scored 11 points and set up outside shooters by driving inside. She limped off the court late in the game with an apparent ankle injury, but it didn’t seem to be serious.
In the first game of the four-year-old ACC/Big Ten challenge, Michigan gave the Big Ten an early advantage in an event the conference has always struggled in. Since its inception in 2007, the Big Ten has never won the challenge, though the Wolverines are now 4-0 in those games.
This victory sets Michigan up nicely for its looming road matchup at Iowa State. The No. 19 Cyclones have not lost a non-conference game at home since 2004, and their rowdy fan base could cause problems for the young Wolverines.
“We want to keep the momentum going this Sunday against a top-20 team,” Reynolds said. “It is going to be a challenge, but we will carry the momentum with us and keep our confidence going.”