Less than 20 seconds into the Michigan women’s basketball exhibition against Slippery Rock, sophomore point guard Brenae Harris found herself in the right corner alone and out of sight of the nearest defender. Senior guard Jenny Ryan spotted her and allowed Harris to bury the basket and give the Wolverines the lead for good.
Michigan scored early and often, showing no mercy for the school loved by students across the campus in a 106-35 victory on Friday. The Wolverines’ first and only exhibition of the season culminated with the program’s first triple-digit game since 1998 and was 27 points higher than its biggest offensive game of last season — a 79-68 victory over Northwestern.
First-year Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico was quick to downplay the 106-35 win, a 71-point victory in a dominating appearance against an opponent picked last in its division during the preseason.
“I don’t really look at the scoreboard, and I try not to have the players look at the scoreboard,” Barnes Arico said. “I think we need to become more disciplined and worry about us and play four minutes at a time. Every timeout I tell them what the score is … because if we win every four minutes we’ll be in good shape.”
Michigan had seven players finish with double digits on the night, led by senior guard Kate Thompson’s double-double — 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Nicole Elmblad led all scorers with 20 points while Harris followed behind with 16 points. Ryan, who was named team captain before the game, finished with 13 points and a team-high six assists.
The Wolverines built up an 8-0 lead to begin the game and never looked back. Slippery Rock turned the ball over 24 times while shooting a dismal 29.1 percent from the field. The Wolverines, on the other hand, committed just five turnovers during the game and finished with a 60.6 field-goal percentage.
“(Barnes Arico) really focused on us taking care of the ball,” Harris said. “She tells us to value the ball and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that.”
Freshman Madison Ristovski, the 2012 Miss Basketball in Michigan, saw her first minutes at Crisler Center after four minutes in the game and scored her first points midway through the half. Thompson, a 6-foot-4 guard, used her height advantage and speed to cut underneath the hoop for a pretty reverse lay-up later in the half and tiptoed along the line again for a similar shot, frustrating Slippery Rock’s defense.
“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. It was a good game.”
The Wolverines steadily built up a sizeable lead, creating more offensive opportunities from the 11 steals recorded in the game. Senior forward Sam Arnold capped a 29-4 run to end the first half with a reverse lay-up of her own to make the score 56-19 heading into the locker room for halftime.
Michigan scored at will throughout the second half, as Barnes Arico played with different lineups frequently.
“I think there’s always the ability to change,” Barnes Arico said. “I want the kids to know that if they do really well in practice their going to have the ability to start.”
With 1:40 remaining in the game, Arnold put her team over the century mark by sinking a pair of free throws.
Barnes Arico, though pleased with her team’s performance, was quick to discuss what her team would be working on before its season opener against the University of Detroit next Friday.
“I think we gave up way to many offensive rebounds, and Detroit is a good offensive rebounding team,” Barnes Arico said, noting that The Rock tallied 12 boards in the Michigan zone. “That has got to be a big effort from us this week, to make sure we are blocking out and rebounding the basketball.”