Krista Phillips has found her groove — and it’s no surprise that, as the tallest player on the team, she has built that momentum smack in the middle of the paint.
Despite Iowa’s physicality and tall lineup (six players above six feet tall), the senior scored 15 points, the majority in the paint, and was the Michigan women’s basketball team’s top scorer in the its first Big Ten test of the season.
Phillips has now scored in double digits in Michigan’s last three games and is almost doubling her point-per-game average from last year. She is emerging as a consistent weapon for the Wolverines – a much-needed one after last season’s offensive woes.
After an injury early last season, Phillips averaged just six points per game. She continually struggles with her footwork, and while it is not yet perfect, she has figured out a way to get around that.
“She understands what we are trying to do, she totally gets that picture,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “The footwork is the part she is probably challenged most with and that’s the area we’re really trying to deal with.”
While the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 6-2 overall) haven’t shot well from behind the arc, they have made a habit of feeding the ball to Phillips under the basket, and the 6-foot-6 center is producing.
But it will become much more difficult for Phillips to camp out down low as the Wolverines get into conference play. She will need to adjust to the bigger players and a more physical style of play otherwise, opponents will push her out from the post, as New Mexico State did in its win over Michigan two weeks ago. That strategy eliminated her chances to score in the game’s waning moments.
“When she plays against those big Big Ten kids, they are going to move her four feet off that lane,” Borseth said. “She’s going to have to get craftier or we’re going to have to get craftier in how we use her, because scoring in that paint is very important.”
Another advantage to Phillips’ size is that it attracts attention, which opens up the perimeter for her teammates. In three of her four highest-scoring games in the paint, her teammates took advantage of the open shots an hit 50 percent or better.
“They might double her, or even just pulling her defender closer to her helps us,” freshman guard Jenny Ryan said. “So if we get the ball moving, it opens it up so much.”
Staying in her lane will be an ongoing battle as the season progresses, but Phillips looked promising in Sunday’s win over the Hawkeyes (0-1, 5-4).
Now she just needs to stand her ground in tomorrow’s game against Boston College (5-3) if the Wolverines hope to snap the Eagles’ five-game winning streak.