Where has the Michigan women’s basketball team’s offense gone?
The 13th-ranked Wolverines’ scoring touch was nowhere to be found in their 63-56 loss to Rutgers (6-5 Big Ten, 18-7 overall). Unfortunately for Michigan, this has been the case since the fourth quarter of its loss to Purdue on Thursday.
Entering Sunday’s game, the Wolverines (8-4, 19-6) were ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 77.1 points per game. The 56 point total was their third fewest of the season.
The struggles were apparent from the opening tip. Michigan scored just seven points in the first quarter while Rutgers played solid defense on the Wolverines’ all-time leading scorer, senior Katelynn Flaherty. The guard wasn’t able to find her rhythm, shooting just twice in the opening period and scoring zero points.
While Flaherty and Michigan were able to pick up their output in the second, the team still amassed just 14 points in the third quarter. The Wolverines were, however, able to execute defensively, holding the Scarlet Knights to 13 points. Despite the ineffective play, Michigan was down just seven at the half.
The Wolverines’ biggest struggle was their inability to take care of the ball. Michigan committed 26 turnovers, well over its season average of 16.1. And Rutgers capitalized on their mistakes, scoring 26 points off the Wolverines’ turnovers. The biggest culprit was Michigan’s main ball handler — Flaherty — who committed a staggering 10 turnovers.
“I think we turned it over trying to get out in transition,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Watching them play Maryland (on Thursday), Maryland was really able to get out in transition and score some easy buckets that way. And (Rutgers) is a team that makes you play in the half court, and if they make you have to grind it out we thought that would be tough.”
“You can’t win a game with that many turnovers.”
The Wolverines did show glimpses of solid play in the second half, partially returning to form with 35 points. But it wasn’t enough. Michigan shouldn’t be too surprised, though, as the Scarlet Knights have the top-ranked defense in the conference, allowing just 57.1 points per game.
The staunch defense and the hostile road environment undoubtedly took a toll on the Wolverines’ bench, which scored just four points. The first player off the bench, freshman guard Deja Church, was the only Michigan non-starter to score.
A positive takeaway for the Wolverines was their ability to shut down Rutgers best player, Tyler Scaife. Despite averaging 19.2 points, the senior guard was held to just two field goals, totaling seven points. However, the Scarlet Knights found an unlikely hero in sophomore Ciani Cryor. The guard, who averages 6.6 points, had a career day with 16 points and four assists.
“I think every team goes through this,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s like, now you have to keep your confidence, now we have to get back to work (and) we have to get better. Let's not lose our mind, I mean we’ve lost two games. The world is not coming to an end. Let’s regroup. Let’s figure out how to get better.”