Thursday night at Crisler Center, the Michigan women’s basketball team dismantled LIU Brooklyn, 83-38.
As expected, the game was never close. The Wolverines (6-3) started the contest on a 23-0 run and held the Blackbirds (0-8) to just one point in the first quarter.
From the start, it was apparent the two programs were of totally different calibers. Top to bottom, Michigan had the advantage.
This was the case in the Wolverines’ first three matchups of the season; they pummeled Mount St. Mary’s, Western Michigan and Detroit Mercy. This is often the case during non-conference play, when schools that simply lack the resources and expertise to get top-ranked players face Michigan.
Coaches love to talk about taking it one game at a time, no matter what. And this makes sense, because for the most part, anything can happen.
But some things usually don’t happen. For instance, the Wolverines smothered LIU Brooklyn, 86-49, a year ago, so even if they won’t say it explicitly, they came into Thursday’s game with a good inclination they would win. Many times early in the season, that is just how it is.
So, how does a team prepare for these uncontested contests?
Michigan made sure to incorporate some scouting reports on the Blackbirds into its gameplan, but the team primarily focused on the bigger picture.
In particular, the Wolverines could have concentrated on exploiting the height advantage as much as possible, however that strategy won’t work against more physical conference opponents. So instead, Michigan worked on a style of play that will be more suitable down the road.
“That’s what it has to be at this point,” said senior center Hallie Thome after the game. “We know that if the opponent isn’t gonna — I don’t wanna be rude — if the opponent isn’t the best, then we still gotta do the things that are gonna help us in the long run. So whether that’s covering back for transition defense, getting offensive rebounds, boxing out and doing all that stuff, the most important part is getting ready for Big Ten season.”
When playing a lesser opponent, teams sometimes start to lower expectations, which can be detrimental. Thursday’s game offered an opportunity to practice avoiding this. To motivate themselves, the Wolverines entered the game with a goal of getting 10 stickers. A sticker is awarded for each charge taken or loose ball forced on defense.
“That kind of keeps you locked in on defense,” Thome said.
Despite this incentive, Thome mentioned the defense could have done a better job of sustaining the intensity. Following the single point allowed in the opening frame, Michigan gave up 18 points in the second quarter.
“In the beginning we set the tone,” Thome said. “But then we realized and started playing to our opponent — which is something we cannot do at all ‘cause a very good team, they’re gonna take advantage and then come back.”
Before the matchup against LIU Brooklyn, the Wolverines were on a tough stretch where they lost three out of four games. This win helped them head back in the right direction.
“I think for us — coming off the stretch that we had — we needed to get our confidence back,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “And we needed to go against an opponent. It didn’t matter who it was. We needed to find our way to playing Michigan basketball again.”
So while these lopsided games may not seem like much on the surface, they can still be useful; there are still lessons to be learned.