CINCINNATI – The website womencollegehoops.com declared this season that Xavier’s two starting senior guards would be “scary good.” Both picked as preseason All-Americans, Amy Waugh and Reetta Piipari lead a backcourt that might be one of the strongest Michigan will face this season.
The Michigan women’s basketball team can make a testament to that statement, as Waugh and Piipari were too much for Michigan’s freshman backcourt. They combined for 41 points in the Wolverines’ 75-64 loss to Xavier in the championship game of the Provident Bank Xavier Invitational yesterday.
Xavier’s guards hit eight 3-pointers while playing all 40 minutes for the Musketeers (4-1). They also managed to shut down Michigan’s guards, holding freshmen Mie Burlin, Niki Reams and Lauren Andrews to just 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting.
“We always try to keep shooting; sometimes we’re on, sometime we’re off,” Reams said. “We had some lapses.”
The lone bright spot for the Wolverines (5-1) yesterday was the inside presence of senior center LeeAnn Bies. After hitting just one of her 11 shots in Saturday’s 61-56 win over Saint Louis (5-3), Bies seemed to have no problem against Xavier’s frontcourt, scoring 31 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Bies earned All-Tournament Team honors. In the first half, Bies dropped 19 on 7-of-10 shooting and couldn’t seem to be stopped by any of the Musketeer defenders. Bies and the other Michigan forwards knew they would have extra responsibility this weekend, as forward Jennifer Smith, the team’s leading scorer averaging 20 per game, didn’t make the trip this weekend due to a knee injury.
“The whole team needs to make up for the loss of (Smith) right now,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said.
But the second half, Bies was met with double and triple-teaming inside the post, forcing the Wolverines to make tough passes inside, many of which resulted in Xavier steals. As a result, Michigan began to rely on the perimeter players to make shots, but they just wouldn’t fall. When Bies did get the ball in the second half, she was just 4-of-6 from the floor.
“(Xavier) went to a zone, and the way to counter it is to make outside shots to open it up in the middle,” Bies said. “We had trouble doing that, and they began to sag in.”
While the Wolverines were having trouble at their end, the Musketeers couldn’t seem to miss from behind the 3-point arc. Waugh hit three straight 3-point attempts in a four-minute span. Xavier ran an offense that relied heavily on movement without the ball by setting numerous screens. As a result, the Wolverines had a difficult time keeping track of Waugh, as she hit every open shot she had in the second half.
“I think in the second half we continue to run and execute our offense,” Waugh said. “The shots just started opening and we took advantage.”
In the first half, it seemed the Michigan guards were doing a good job of containing Waugh and Piipari, holding them to 16 points by using man defense on each player. In the second half, the Michigan defense broke down, and the two Xavier guards took advantage. Piipari began to find openings in the defense by feeding forward Tara Boothe in the post.
“I think we lost our defensive focus (at the beginning of the second half), and it snowballed,” Guevara said. “I thought they came out with a little more firepower.”
Saturday saw the Wolverines playing a game they haven’t seen this season, an up-tempo run-and-gun style of game against St. Louis. Michigan struggled to match the tempo of the Billikens, and turned the ball over 24 times, the Wolverines’ most this season.
Michigan had trouble controlling the tempo, as St. Louis had several quick players that could score, and four finished the game with double-digits in points.
“We wanted to control the boards to control the tempo, and we had some trouble doing that,” Bies said. “It’s hard to control the tempo when you’re not getting the (offensive) boards and breaking.”
Rather than trying to match St. Louis on each possession by using the fast break, Michigan was able to pound the ball inside to forward Stephanie Gandy. She finished the day with season-high totals for points (22), rebounds (11) and three-point baskets (4).
“I think it was my teammates finding me,” Gandy said. “They were going to double-team in the post or double-teaming the (guards), so I was moved to the open spots and got the shot.”