Some teams live or die by the 3-pointer.
For the Michigan women’s basketball team, it’s more as if the triples keep it on life support, and it’s only a matter of time before the plug gets pulled.
Against Wisconsin on Sunday, the Wolverines fell behind by 20 points in the second half before a barrage of 3-pointers brought them back within seven. But this was no help, and the Badgers downed Michigan 79-71.
In total, the Wolverines hit 12 treys against Wisconsin, setting a new school record — the second time this year the team has eclipsed the old record of 10. Earlier in the season, during its 70-60 loss to Michigan State, Michigan bucketed 11 from behind the arc to break the mark.
In the Michigan State game, the long-range shooting actually allowed the team to take a lead late in the first half. Then the shots stopped falling, and the offense looked helpless. At times, the team went minutes without scoring, including a five-minute drought to start the half. Finally — just like the Wisconsin game — the 3-pointers became a last-ditch effort for the Wolverines. Their last four baskets came from downtown, which only served to make the game look more respectable in the end.
“We’re not playing with any sense of urgency until we get down by double digits, “ Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said after a Dec. 28 loss to Oakland.
“Scoring does not come easily for this basketball team.”
The tendency to shoot from the outside comes from an inability to penetrate and get inside the lane. Michigan often looks to have no real purpose on an offensive possession. The team forces up shots from well behind the arc, looking desperate just to make a play on offense. The Wolverines have taken 331 shots from downtown ——this year, second most in the Big Ten, but are ranked sixth in 3-point percentage.
That is not to say the team needs to work on making 3-point—-ers to win games. Rather, the young Wolverines just need to wean themselves off relying on the three-ball so much.
During the 63-61 win against Indiana on Jan. 23, the team played with much more heart than it had in recent games. The team proved that, even when it struggles from behind the arc, hitting just 3-of-16 from downtown, it can still compete. Michigan hustled all game and managed to find ways to work the ball down low. The Wolverines committed themselves to handling the ball better and had just 12 turnovers.
Essentially, the team did the “little things” necessary to win. The Wolverines gave it their all that day, diving on loose balls, grabbing offensive rebounds and, more importantly, making sure every possession down the floor counted.
Indiana is not one of the better teams in the Big Ten, and no one should expect Michigan to go out and beat No. 3 Ohio State or No. 10 Michigan State. But it still needs to bring that same passion to every game.
It’s understandable, with this young and undersized team, that it is easy for the Wolverines to look to 3-pointers as the remedy to all their problems. But by doing this, they rely on chance rather than skill and effort to win games.
If, instead, the team concentrates on doing those “little things” all game, it will not only be in much better shape now, but more importantly, in the future. The team should focus on looking for a quality shot each time down the floor. The 3-pointers may make the final score look better, but in the long run it doesn’t help the team get better.
Just one player needs to step up and be the Wolverines’ third option behind senior Tabitha Pool and freshman Ta’Shia Walker. Michigan will be in much better shape if it gets someone else who can score inside the perimeter.
Sophomore Kelly Helvey showed she has the hustle and will put in the effort to do this against Indiana and Iowa, but she needs to step up and perform on a consistent basis. Not only will this provide a much-needed presence inside the arc, but it will open up shots outside. With freshmen Becky Flippin and Krista Clement already proving they can shoot the long-ball when the offense isn’t executing, they should only improve when the Wolverines are driving and dishing it back out to them on the perimeter.
After the Indiana game, Michigan took a bit of a regression last week, once again relying on 3-pointers to keep the team in the game against Iowa and Wisconsin. The team definitely has the potential to do what needs to be done, it’s a just a matter of doing it on a consistent basis, so hopefully Burnett and the coaching staff will follow through with their plan.
“Being young, we also understand you can take two steps forward and one step back,” Burnett said. “So we want to prevent the one step back.”