With seven freshmen on the roster, it’s obvious that the
Michigan women’s basketball team lacks experience. And it
didn’t take long for it to show.

Thinking that she was being introduced prior to the game,
freshman Krista Clement started toward the court, only to realize
that fellow freshman Becky Flippin’s name was blaring over
Crisler Arena’s loudspeaker.

“I think it’s kind of cute, actually,”
Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said. “Before the game,
they’re like, when do we run on the floor?”

Fortunately for the Wolverines, their inexperience wasn’t
much of a factor the rest of the way. Featuring a fast-breaking,
aggressive style, the youthful squad came up with a 75-61
exhibition game victory over Athletes in Action last night at
Crisler Arena. With most players on the team making their
collegiate debuts, Michigan came out fired up — diving on
loose balls, creating turnovers and out-rebounding its opponents
despite the Wolverines’ obvious size disadvantage.

“We were all really excited, and we all came out and
played like we were,” sophomore Kelly Helvey said. “We
were up-tempo the whole game and our energy just showed.”

The Wolverines’ second leading scorer last season, senior
Tabitha Pool, keyed Michigan’s strong offensive showing. The
forward was a force throughout, leading Michigan with a
double-double — 24 points and 14 rebounds.

“Tabitha Pool is a player that we’re going to
continue to ride the shoulders of,” Burnett said.

After emerging from halftime with a 41-35 lead, Michigan kicked
it into high gear. The Wolverines nearly ran Athletes in Action out
of the building, ratcheting up the intensity on both ends of the
court. Within seven minutes, Michigan had opened up a 17 point
lead.

“That’s our game,” Pool said. “They were
getting tired. We knew we had to push it and just start
running.”

No one typified the Wolverines’ go-for-broke style more
than Helvey. Early in the second half, she took an outlet pass from
freshman Becky Flippin and fired a perfect bounce pass to freshman
Janelle Cooper for a quick score. A few minutes later, Helvey dove
for the ball at midcourt, came up with it and fed Flippin for a
wide-open lay-in.

“This early in the year, I think it’s unusual to
have those great fast break opportunities where we’re seeing
the floor and seeing people that are open,” Burnett said.

Helvey weaved her way through the Athletes in Action defense all
game, opening up the Wolverine offense and racking up a game-high
seven assists. The forward also sparked Michigan on the defensive
end, picking up both of her steals in the second half.

“I’ve coached a long time, and I don’t know
that I’ve ever seen one player playing the effort game that
Kelly Helvey did tonight,” Burnett said. “She was
solid. She had hustle plays. She was a factor with just the energy
and effort she put out on the floor.”

Michigan’s nerves were evident early on, as Athletes in
Action scored on its first four possessions and took a 10-5 lead.
After Burnett called a timeout, Clement put in a reverse layup to
get the Wolverines rolling, and they soon took the lead for
good.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Michigan’s 40-33
advantage on the boards. The Wolverines overcame a severe height
disadvantage, consistently boxing out their opponents and ripping
the ball out of their hands. But Athletes in Action took advantage
of its size offensively, working the ball into the paint and
getting off many high-percentage shots. Center Jessie Stomski
scored a team-high 19 points, 16 of them coming inside the
paint.

“Certainly our post defense is something we’re going
to have to continue to work on,” Burnett said.
“That’s going to be a team challenge due to our lack of
size.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.