After an offseason with notable roster turnover, the No. 25 Michigan women’s basketball team entered Wednesday’s season opener with an initial opportunity to test what it’s capable of with different faces.
The Wolverines (1-0 overall) wasted no time answering that question, defeating Delaware State (0-1) convincingly, 83-30.
From the opening possession, Michigan displayed its tenacity and focus, preventing the Hornets from scoring a single basket for over four minutes of play. The Wolverines limited Delaware State to just one field goal and four points in the quarter.
The Hornets’ low scoring in the opening quarter stemmed from Michigan’s lockdown defense, which forced nine turnovers — including five on consecutive possessions.
“After we were able to anticipate passes and get steals, that led to offense,” junior forward Cameron Williams said. “I think it’s a huge game changer when you have a lot of aggression and o-boards. I think that’s really how we turned up on our defensive end.
Last season, Williams didn’t see the court all that much, but now as a starter, she has the opportunity to display her abilities. On Wednesday, she wasted no time showing that, fitting right into the team’s defense-first mindset.
Williams and sophomore guard Laila Phelia both made immediate impacts in the first quarter. Phelia scored eight points and Williams set an aggressive tone on the offensive glass with two boards.
At the end of the quarter, with a 15 point lead and a suffocating defensive showing, the game already seemed all but sealed.
Despite the Hornets hitting some 3-pointers to open the second quarter, Michigan remained staunch, cementing its dominance. That dominance was especially apparent on defense, but also led to success on the other end.
“We need to play basketball, and that starts on the defensive end,” Williams said. “(Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico) even says ‘offense will come.’ … When we can lock into our defense, that’s how we will create our offense.”
The Wolverines executed that to a tee, forcing 24 turnovers and scoring 29 points off those turnovers.
Fast-paced intensity was prevalent for Michigan in the first half, and as a result of that mentality, it went into the break up 22.
However, the Wolverines still weren’t satisfied with their defensive efforts. Coming out of the break they put an emphasis on stepping it up.
“I thought (in) the second quarter we had a little lull and we started to take some possessions off,” Barnes Arico said. “And I challenged them at halftime, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
Delaware State opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer on its first possession, potentially swinging the momentum in its favor as it tried to claw back into the game. But those three points were all the Hornets’ saw for the remaining 10 minutes, as the Wolverines outscored them by 21 to finish the quarter.
With fifth-year guard Leigha Brown not playing, sophomore guard Greta Kampschroeder having a quiet night and senior guard Maddie Nolan going 1-for-8 from three, Michigan found production from other sources.
Freshman forward Alyssa Crockett played significant minutes and collected six rebounds, Williams went 6-for-9 in her 13 point performance and sophomore guard Wiggins played valuable minutes at the point in Brown’s absence; most notably, they all contributed on both ends of the floor, too. The ability to lean on a wider range of players could play a key role in the Wolverines’ success.
“It’s so nice to go deep in our bench and not lose anything,” Barnes Arico said. “… This time of year, when they’re gaining this experience and these minutes is really going to be valuable moving forward into the more difficult part of the schedule.”
Coming into the game, there were questions about how the Michigan players who saw few minutes last year and the new players would fare. As different rotations played together and those players saw more minutes, the Wolverines started to erase some of those question marks.