“Tonight, you saw point guard by committee. You look in the post, we had post-play by committee. You look out on the perimeter, at our two’s and three’s, it was perimeter play by committee.”
As well evidenced by Michigan women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara’s words, the Wolverines defeated Creighton 75-66 by using a team-by-committee approach in their season opener.
“I had the luxury of playing 10 people tonight,” Guevara said. “I told the team that it’s really encouraging to me to be able to look down the bench, and play people I know are going to come in and make a difference.”
Utilizing their depth, the Wolverines kicked off their season with a convincing win over a solid Creighton team, which won the Missouri Valley Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Although the word of the night was synergy, the first 10 minutes of the game were the “Jennifer Smith Show.” When Smith, a junior center, subbed out at the 9:39 mark, she had individually outscored the Blue Jays 14-11 (Michigan held a 24-11 lead). Guevara believes that Smith’s early dominance may have caught Creighton by surprise.
“We exchanged tapes with Creighton,” Guevara said. “I don’t know if you remember, but (Smith) was 2-of-13 against the Dominican Republic, so if I’m watching that tape, I’m thinking, ‘Well, I might not have to worry a whole lot.’ But she did a good job of running, catching and finishing.”
Besides Smith, Michigan received a very large contribution in the first half from junior Stephanie Gandy. The energetic forward came off the bench, and contributed 11 points in 13 minutes.
Although the Wolverines played an impressive first 20 minutes, Creighton hung in the game, mostly due to guard Dayna Finch and her 14 first-half points (27 for the game). At halftime Michigan led 39-26.
Although they had handled the Blue Jays’ full-court press in the first half, at the beginning of the second half, Michigan crumbled under the pressure.
“We were being kind of lacksadaisical with the ball, not hanging onto it like we should, not ball-faking like we should and that’s exactly what coach Guevara told us,” Smith said. “She told us to settle down, take our time, ball-fake and do all the little things.”
The Wolverines regained their composure, and weathered the Blue Jays’ storm.
But eight minutes into the half, Creighton was still threatening. Guevara then turned to freshman Lauren Andrews, and the guard gave turnover-happy Michigan the needed stability at the point.
“We put her in at the 12-minute mark, and she gave us 12 really, really good minutes,” Guevara said. “That is one of the things we talk to the kids about a lot: ‘Make the most of your minutes,’ and she got that steal right away and converted the three-point play. She also did a good job of handling the pressure down the stretch.”
Late in the game, the Blue Jays made a run, and found themselves down just 69-63, with possession.
But senior LeeAnn Bies delivered the final blow as she blocked a Finch 3-point attempt, and hit two free throws in the ensuing possession, giving the Wolverines a 71-63 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
“We definitely have things to work on, but I think we looked good out there, and this was a key game for us to start our season off,” Gandy said.