With 1:19 remaining in Saturday’s women’s basketball
game against Indiana, center Jennifer Smith hit the jackpot. Not
only did the senior convert a 3-point play that stretched
Michigan’s lead to five, but she fouled out lofty 6-foot-7
Hoosier Sarah McKay. Smith’s 33 points — marking the
fourth time this season she has scored more than 30 — made
the difference in Michigan’s 65-59 victory at Crisler.

Kate Green
SHUBRA OHRI/Daily
Senior Stephanie Gandy charges down the lane against Indiana Saturday. Gandy was one of three Wolverines to score in double figures, notching 13.
Kate Green
SHUBRA OHRI/Daily
Michigan sophomore Niki Reams drives by Indiana star forward Jenny DeMuth. Reams was responsible for guarding DeMuth and kept her contained as Michigan put the game away.

Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett’s apparent goal —
“get the ball to Jen” — worked to perfection.

“What we were talking to Jen about is, let’s want
the ball every possession,” Burnett said. “We call it
contact shuffle — to keep them behind and be much more
aggressive. And when we told her that, she stepped up and did
it.”

Michigan (2-1 Big Ten, 9-7 overall) held the lead for much of
the first half, but the Hoosiers (1-2, 8-6) always trailed close
behind and even took the lead near the break in front of a crowd of
3,809.

The Wolverines’ scoring picked up in the second half with
a 20-point performance from Smith. Senior Stephanie Gandy and
Tabitha Pool also delivered, scoring in double digits, with 13 and
15 for the game, respectively. While Smith, Gandy and Pool have
accounted for the majority of Wolverine scoring this season,
it’s a rare day when all three are as successful as they were
this game.

Indiana got itself into deeper trouble when the fouls began to
add up. By the end of the game, the Hoosiers had given Michigan 28
free-throw opportunities compared to their own 13. Twelve of
Michigan’s successful 23 free throws came from Smith, who had
a perfect afternoon at the line.

“They got to the free-throw line, we did not,”
Indiana coach Kathi Bennett said. “They made their free
throws — if you look at the stats, that’s it right
there.”

Riding off points from forward Jenny DeMuth, Indiana rallied in
the final minutes. But sophomore Niki Reams and Pool kept Michigan
safely ahead from the charity stripe in the final 20 seconds.

The Wolverines may have only notched this win by a close six
points, but the victory was more of a moral one for this recovering
team. Last season, when the team went 3-13 in the Big Ten, many
games were decided in the last few minutes of play. Michigan would
have victory within reach, but then lose by up to ten points
— eating away at the self-assurance of the players.

“We really wanted to build confidence off of this game
which meant that we needed to get a win,” Burnett said.

Although she only scored three points, Reams was a valuable
player behind the scenes.

Going into the game, Burnett knew that the Hoosiers’ girl
to watch would be DeMuth. DeMuth has been averaging 20.3 points per
game for Indiana, close behind Smith’s average 21.5.

Burnett left the defending of DeMuth to Reams — and the
forward did not let her coach down.

Reams held the Hoosier center to just seven points in the first
half. DeMuth did end the contest with 19 points, but Reams held her
to 7-of-16 shooting.

“Niki Reams just played an incredible defensive game on
DeMuth,” Burnett said.

“We knew any Kathi Bennett-coached team, we would have to
outwork … and I’m really proud of the kids for what I
call the mental toughness they showed in this
game.”

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