Michigan women’s basketball coach Kevin Borseth is known for going to his bench early and often this season.
On Sunday, when Michigan (5-2 Big Ten, 16-4 overall) squared off against Indiana at the Crisler Center, Borseth did just that. He was able to play 13 different players, and it was a happy occurrence that this happened on the team’s “Parent’s Day” in Ann Arbor.
With 16:25 left in the second half, the Wolverines led by as many as 28 points. The drubbing of the Hoosiers enabled Borseth to play some reserves that rarely see the court.
“Great win, obviously,” Borseth said on Sunday. “Everybody got a chance to play, and that sure makes the locker room sweeter after the game.”
In the second half, Indiana went on a 9-0 run, forcing Borseth to revert back to the starters. But it was short-lived, as the Wolverines quickly built their lead back up, allowing Borseth to clear the bench once more. Other than that Hoosier run, the bench players had all-around success against Indiana, combining for 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The last time Michigan played 13 players in one game was on Nov. 14 against Florida Atlantic. It was even more significant that the entire team played against Indiana since so many players’ parents were there to see it.
“Everybody’s parents were here, and parents want to see their kid play, so fortunately we got everyone in the game and they were able to play a little bit,” Borseth said. “That’s really key (for them.)”
Added senior guard Courtney Boylan: “Everybody pretty much had a parent here, so that was really great, because I think it’s good for the parents to get to see everybody come in. Plus it’s just great for team camaraderie.”
Along with being important for morale, the Wolverines’ ability to play the entire roster is also beneficial for some of the younger players’ development. Freshmen Brenae Harris and Cyesha Goree saw more time than usual.
At one point in the second half, the lineup of Harris, junior guards Kate Thompson and Jenny Ryan and junior forwards Rachel Sheffer and Nya Jordan was a preview of what Michigan’s starting five could look like next year.
Though Harris has had a limited role for most of the season, the Ohio native was a highly touted recruit, and after Boylan’s graduation, she could see more playing time at point guard. In the 11 contests Harris has appeared in, she has averaged 7.9 minutes and 2.1 points per game. These numbers might not look good on the stat sheet, but the Borseth offense can be tough for a player just out of high school to transition into.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of promise sitting (on the bench),” Borseth said. “We feel good about the kids that we’ve got that are sitting down there.”
Since Michigan has had a lot of close games — seven of its 20 games have been decided by seven points or less — the reserves haven’t seen a lot of time on the floor. But Borseth, who played collegiately at Lake Superior State, knows how it feels to sit on the bench.
“I’ve sat there before as a player and never got a turn to play when my parents came, and inside, it really hurts,” Borseth said. “It’s very difficult to sit there, I get it. A lot of those guys are waiting for their turn.”
But it won’t always be that much “sweeter,” as Borseth said. Indiana is winless in Big Ten play, and one of the weaker teams in the conference. When Michigan faces No. 18 Penn State on Thursday, the Wolverines will look to avenge their Jan. 12 loss at State College, and it’ll be up to the starters to accomplish that.