When it comes to dominating in the post, Michigan women’s basketball forward Jennifer Smith has not disappointed in the early stages of this season.
Smith scored a career-high 29 yesterday against Detroit and 20 against Massachusetts, while leading the Wolverines to a pair of wins. Michigan handed Detroit a 87-63 loss yesterday, and ran away from Massachusetts 91-65 on Friday. The Wolverines’ 4-0 start is the program’s best since 1999, the year they started 7-0.
Smith finished last night 11-of-14 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Smith, who also grabbed 13 boards, benefited from numerous passes into the post and her ability to shake off defenders.
“My focus today was to take it up strong,” Smith said. “I credit my teammates for giving me nice passes tonight.”
Smith also helped her teammates, as she was often double-teamed in the second half. When guard Niki Reams passed the ball down to her, Smith waited until two players were drawn in and kicked it back out to Reams for a jump shot from the perimeter.
Smith missed just one shot inside the paint, and also helped out her teammates on the defensive side. She limited the Titans’ center Sara Crum to just 1-of-11 shooting – 0-of-7 in the first half – and just five boards.
Poor shooting in the first half was also exhibited by both teams in the early minutes. Neither team could seem to buy a basket in the opening five minutes, as they scored a combined 12 points.
“For a while, we were getting good shots on the basket, and they were falling,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said. “But then I thought we got to a point where we were doing a little one-on-one and being impatient against their zone.”
One of the major factors that turned around the slow start was Guevara’s deep bench, which has been essential in all four wins this season. Sophomore guard Sierra Hauser-Price came in and gave the Wolverines a boost by adding four points before the half expired, pacing an 8-2 run for the Wolverines.
Michigan’s other two post players were also major contributors against Detroit, each scoring in double figures. Center LeeAnne Bies finished with 11 and forward Tabitha Pool added 15, also grabbing 11 boards.
“I was happy with the way that we controlled the tempo of the game, and I thought that was due in large part to our post players,” Guevara said “We were able to do the things we wanted to do on the block in order for us to be successful.”
The frontcourt was largely responsible for the dramatic turnaround in the second half shooting, as the Wolverines shot 63 percent and accumulated 51 points.
The Wolverines saw the reverse in Friday’s game against Massachusetts, scoring 55 in the first half to pace an easy victory. The Minutewomen (2-1) attempted 23 3-point shots, but sank just six of them. Michigan’s lead reached as high as 34 before Guevara decided to play some of her bench players and Massachusetts started a small rally at the end of the game.
Michigan couldn’t seem to miss inside the arc on Friday, as the Wolverines came out and made 20 of their 25 two-point shots. Forward Raina Goodlow said the Wolverines were actively seeking the ball and making the most of their open shots.
“A lot of it had to do with hustle plays,” Goodlow said. “A lot of scoring wasn’t necessarily off the offensive set. A lot of times it was just picking up the loose ball and scoring. We had a lot of really good heads-up plays.”