After a 1-3 start to conference play, Crisler Arena might need to add more handicapped parking spots for its women”s basketball players as its become apparent that both of the team”s Achilles” heels have been ruptured.
After reeling off a school-record 10 straight wins, both of its weaknesses turnovers and defense have been exposed during the Big Ten season. Michigan now finds itself in ninth place, looking for ways to stop a downward spiral.
Two days after the Wolverines allowed Wisconsin to score 89 points and hit a school-record 11 3-pointers, coach Sue Guevara spent the entire two-and-a-half hours of practice working on defense. There were no new defensive schemes, just the basics: Boxing out, communicating, reacting quickly to passes and defending shots.
“We aren”t contesting the shot,” Guevara said. “I can be a great shooter if no one is going to play on me, keep their hands down and stay two-arms length away from me and I”m a horrible shooter. I”m a passer.”
The absence of Raina Goodlow, out for the season with an infection, is a large part of Michigan”s defensive problems. Without their second-leading shot-blocker from last season, centers LeeAnn Bies and Jennifer Smith have been forced to play nearly the entire game (they played a combined 71 minutes against Wisconsin). Guevara plans to give them more breaks in the future so they can have fresh legs at the end of the game.
“I need to give (Katrina Mason) a little more time early, and then maybe give her a little more time in the second half (to) make a substitution for (Smith),” Guevara said.
Mason has earned the opportunity to play. She hasn”t turned the ball over (11 turnovers all season) and she”s proved she can score, recording six points against Notre Dame and 11 against Oakland.
Unlike the defense, Michigan”s turnovers aren”t a new problem they”ve handicapped the Wolverines all year. But it caught up with them against top competition like Illinois, No. 14 Purdue and No. 9 Wisconsin. The Wolverines average 19 turnovers a game this year, six more than their opponents, including 20 turnovers against Wisconsin and 23 against Purdue.
The Wolverines like to push the ball up the court but, surprisingly, that is not where the turnovers come from.
“Our turnovers are happening in a half-court,” Guevara said. “So are we going to slow down in transition? No. We want to run. Actually, that is when we are at our best.”
She said the team must execute the fundamentals: Communication, pass-faking, moving to the ball and having “target hands” to catch passes.
Guevara decided to move Ingram back to shooting guard. Former walk-on Susana Jara will start at the point on Thursday night against Ohio State. Jara has scored just 31 points all season, but she doesn”t turn the ball over often. Also, Ingram has had some of her best games with Jara at the point, scoring 25 points against Syracuse on Nov. 25.
Despite Michigan”s 1-3 conference record, it has history on its side. Guevara has always exceeded expectations during her six years at Michigan.
She”s not likely to allow the program to take a step backward this year.