It took the Michigan women’s basketball team four halves and an overtime period to capture its first win of the season. Wednesday, the Wolverines hope to capture their second win faster.
After leaving the Iona Tournament in New Rochelle, N.Y. with a 1-1 record, Michigan is set to return home for its first game of the season in Crisler Center.
The Wolverines will face Xavier on Wednesday to focus on building off of Saturday’s overtime win against Arizona. Michigan found most of it success against the Wildcats when it was moving the ball and finding open shooting lanes. Junior transfer guard Shannon Smith led the Wolverines offensively last weekend, averaging 19 points, five rebounds and four assists over the weekend.
Coming into the season, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico pointed to Smith as the team’s best offensive weapon, and the junior didn’t disappoint in her first two games. The former North Carolina contributor played all 85 minutes of the weekend’s games.
“Shannon is a winner,” Barnes Arico said. “She didn’t want to come out of the game … she wanted to stay in and make plays.”
After Smith, Michigan also found success from junior forward Nicole Elmblad, who averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
“Nicole really stepped up,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s been so great in practice every day. She leads by example, we keep daily stats, and we add them up and have weekly totals and she and (junior forward) Cyeesha Goree always lead at the end of the week. A lot of it has to do with their effort in practice. … Nicole is doing a tremendous job for us.”
Going into the first weekend of the season, the Wolverines’ point guard position was an unknown with freshman Siera Thompson at the reigns. But Thompson rose to the occasion, contributing 12 points and five assists per game in her first two NCAA games.
Behind Thompson’s guidance running the point, Michigan began to find its rhythm against Arizona after starting off sluggish against Bowling Green on Friday. The Wolverines eventually clawed back yet were unable to finish, but they corrected their slow start going into Saturday’s meeting with the Wildcats.
Michigan looks for a fast start in its home opener against Xavier (0-1). The Musketeers lost their first game of the season to Ohio, 94-88. Leading the way in that game were guards Shatyra Hawkes and guard Je Crittendon, who had 26 and 25 points, respectively. Crittendon also led the team with nine boards.
“Xavier is coming off a game they played on Sunday where they scored 88 points, so they definitely have the ability to put up a lot of points,” Barnes Arico said. “And they can really run in transition.
“I think it’s really important for us in the next couple days to work on our individual defense, work on fouling, we have to make sure we keep them off the free-throw line and get back on defense during transition and work to contain those two guards.”
Last season, these two teams met in Cincinnati, where Michigan won, 62-53. Crittendon led the Musketeers with 13 points and six rebounds in that game.
But like the Wolverines, Xavier fields a small team that struggles with size issues. Michigan, however, holds a slight height advantage over the Musketeers as it has the 6-foot-3 Goree and the 6-foot-4 senior center Val Driscoll. Xavier’s biggest players are forwards Briana Glover and Leah Schaeer, at 6-foot-2 each. The Wolverines are looking to exploit that and work to get the ball in the paint when they see an opening.
“I’m sure Xavier is going to come in fired up for this one, but it is a great opportunity to have our first game of the season (at home) and protect that block ‘M,’ which we talk about all the time,” Barnes Arico said. “The players are really excited about Wednesday.”