With 18:50 left in the game against Illinois on Friday, junior forward Rachel Scheffer drove and dished the ball to senior forward Carmen Reynolds for an easy lay-up.
While it was an everyday play for the Wolverines women’s basketball team, it just so happened to be Reynolds’ 1,001st career point.
“I’m so happy for Carmen,” said senior guard Courtney Boylan. “She’s worked her butt off for the past four years that she’s been here and she’s so deserving of getting a 1,000 points. I’m just really proud of her and how hard she’s worked to get to this point.”
Reynolds became the 22nd Michigan player to record the statistic. Last season, Veronica Hicks topped the 1,000-point mark, as did Carly Benson two seasons ago.
The Wolverines won their Big Ten opener with a 68-52 victory over the Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall in Champaign, bringing the team to 12-2 overall. Though Illinois is not one of the strongest teams in the conference, the very nature of Big Ten play poses challenges for the Wolverines.
“I think (Big Ten play compared non-conference play) is a huge difference,” Boylan said. “To me, it’s just a lot more physical and it’s a lot more competitive because you’ve played these teams every year and we’re a lot more familiar with one another.”
In the first half, Michigan held the Fighting Illini to just 10 points on 4-for-19 attempts from the field, also forcing 13 turnovers in the first half alone.
But it wasn’t only a defensive effort in the first half. The Wolverines shot an impressive 42.4 percent from the field and had just eight turnovers. Michigan took a 17-point lead and the lion’s share of the momentum into halftime.
“I think in the first half our defense was really good,” said Michigan coach Kevin Borseth. “It created some offense opportunities too. I thought the first half was the best part of that game.”
Though Illinois scored 40 points in the second half, it wasn’t enough to come back. The Wolverines continued to get to the basket and score — the final line was a 45-percent shooting performance.
“We were really creating for each other (on offense),” said junior forward Rachel Scheffer. “If we got the ball inside they doubled us, and then we’d pass it out.”
Reynolds added: “I think we did a good job when we got in the post. We either dished it out to a shooter or a cutter to the basket. I think that was pretty critical for the game.”
Reynolds led the way for Michigan, scoring 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting. She also scored two 3-pointers — putting her just six away from being the all-time leader in that category. Boylan scored 12 points and junior guard Jenny Ryan added 12.
Fighting Illini junior Karisma Penn recorded a double-double, scoring 22 of her team’s 50 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. The sturdy, 6-2 forward dominated in the paint, where she tallied the majority of her points.
But the Wolverines depth was evident: Their bench scored 17 points compared to Illinois’ three points. Junior guard Kate Thompson scored seven points and junior center Sam Arnold added five points in reserve roles, and the Fighting Illini were left without an answer to Michigan’s bench.
Though Illinois isn’t the biggest team, it still has significant size down low — anchored by Penn. Michigan’s ability to outscore and out-rebound the Fighting Illini is a good sign as the Wolverines move through their conference slate.