After getting off to a slow start, the Michigan women’s basketball team came out firing in the second half Monday to defeat host Xavier, 62-53. In first-year coach Kim Barnes Arico’s second game, the Wolverines shot 41.8 percent from the field but gave up 13 turnovers in their first game away from the Crisler Center.
“I think we came out with a lot of energy,” said senior forward Rachel Sheffer. “At times we were a little quiet, but once we got comfortable and focused on ourselves is when we really started playing well.”
Sheffer led Michigan on offense with 18 points and four assists, making 7-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Senior guard Kate Thompson followed suit with 14 points while making 4-of-7 3-pointers. Thompson was especially dominant in the post, where she grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots. Sophomore guard Brenae Harris led the team with seven rebounds while contributing nine points.
“(Kate) did a really great job of affecting their shots and getting some blocks, and (she) really helped us inside,” Barnes Arico said. “She has great length.”
The Musketeers took advantage of Michigan’s missed attempts early in the game, building a 7-3 lead to open the game. The Wolverines countered with a 13-8 run, led by three of Thompson’s four shots from beyond the arc. Xavier junior guard Shatyra Hawkes’ 3-pointer at the end of the half brought the Musketeers within five going into halftime.
“I thought we really shot the ball well in the first half,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought we really played well and we were only up by five. That was actually a little concerning for me at halftime.”
Michigan enlarged its lead in the second half with a boost from Harris’ 3-point play, followed by a fourth triple from Thompson. Harris’ lay-up with 8:43 remaining put the Wolverines ahead by a game-high 15 points, but Xavier continued to fire back. The Musketeers were able to cut the lead to within seven with less than two minutes to play, but senior guard Jenny Ryan knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the victory.
“I think we stick together as a team really well,” Thompson said. “They kept it close the whole game and we were able to make it out with a nice win.”
While Michigan was persistent in refusing to let Xavier back into the game, the Wolverines gave away seven of their 13 turnovers in the first half. To add to its first half woes, Michigan was outrebounded 18-13 in the first 20 minutes of play. The Wolverines have been outrebounded in both of their games this season, losing a 35-30 battle on the glass to the Musketeers.
“There were times that they definitely out-muscled us on the boards, and there were some that we had in our hands and we just didn’t finish the play,” Sheffer said. “But I think overall we came out with a win, so that’s really all that matters at this point.”