The Michigan women’s basketball team finally has some momentum it desperately needed.
Sunday’s win over Penn State was the team’s fourth-straight win and its second conference victory on the road. Prior to their victory over the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines (7-6 Big Ten, 16-9 overall) lost six out of nine games. So, things are trending up.
There is one significant concern, though. Last Thursday, during the first quarter against Nebraska, freshman guard Amy Dilk went down with a right knee injury while attempting a floater. She hasn’t played since, and the status of her injury remains uncertain. In high school, she injured the same knee twice and had surgery.
“She has a knee injury and she’s day-to-day right now,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on Tuesday. “So, she’s out until she is back 100 percent.”
From the moment the season started, Dilk has been the main starter at point guard. She logged 27 minutes in each of the first four contests and quickly transitioned to the pace of the college game. Since the new calendar year, she is averaging close to 36 minutes per night.
When healthy, Dilk is a key asset to the Wolverines’ offense. She scores 7.6 points per game and has strong court vision that creates opportunities for her teammates.
Though Michigan won its two games without Dilk, her absence had a clear impact on its ball handling abilities. Michigan committed 21 turnovers against the Cornhuskers — its most in a game since late December. Early against the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines lacked direction again. They had a shaky start and picked up 22 turnovers — 13 of which came in the first half.
“To try to adjust without your point guard took a little bit of time in the last two games,” Barnes Arico said. “The problem is at this point of year, we don’t have too many practices to start working on developing another point guard. But at least we have the next couple days to really get people ready to be in that position.”
In the Penn State game, sophomore guard Deja Church, junior guard Akienreh Johnson and senior guard Nicole Munger shared most of the time running the offense. Barnes Arico plans to keep a rotation going — potentially giving freshman guard Danielle Rauch more reps, too — but looks to Church as the starter.
“I think for each of them, they’re willing to take on that role. But the responsibility of doing it 100 percent of the time is enormous,” Barnes Arico said. “And I think at this point in the season, for the best interest of our team it’s great to have different people there throughout the game.
“And Deja obviously is gonna be the first one there, and I think she has the most experience there and I think she can definitely handle that role and I think she embraces that role.”
Michigan’s three main options all bring something different to the table. As the veteran of the group, Munger is the most fundamentally sound. Her experience can help avoid mistakes in crunch time. Church is quick and excels at attacking the basket. Johnson brings size and hit her stride recently, scoring in double-figures twice this month.
Regardless, time will tell how well those characteristics compensate for Dilk’s absence.
“I can’t wait for (Dilk) to get back,” Barnes Arico said.
The Wolverines though, have managed — at least in the short term — without her.