Just two weeks into the season, the Michigan women’s basketball team (2-0) already has two dominant performances under its belt. First, the Wolverines dismantled Mount St. Mary’s, 88-40, in the season opener. And last Thursday, they cruised past Western Michigan, 79-42.
There’s no reason to expect anything different to happen Monday night, when Michigan faces Detroit Mercy (1-3) at Crisler Center.
Last season, the Titans finished with an abysmal 2-28 record. They are currently on a three-game losing streak, and on paper, they don’t match up well against the Wolverines.
Detroit Mercy has just two players at or over six-feet tall, and only one of them — six-foot forward Paige Bellman — gets meaningful playing time. On the other hand, Michigan has 11 players in the six-foot club — including 6-foot-5 senior center Hallie Thome.
She has been the Wolverines go-to player so far, leading the team with 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. Both of Michigan’s opponents so far have lacked comparable height, thus allowing Thome to control the paint.
Because of her height advantage, Thome often draws double teams. But so far, she has used solid footwork to weave around this. She should have no trouble finding the basket come Monday, as the Titans don’t seem to have a logical answer for her.
With their length, the Wolverines have been successful under the glass. They’ve outrebounded opposing teams 106 to 46 and could widen the gap against Detroit Mercy.
“I think that’s been a difference-maker kind of our last couple games,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico to WTKA on Thursday. “And we talked about that a lot coming into tonight.”
When these two schools met last season, the Titans initially kept it interesting. Early in the opening quarter, they drained four three-pointers in a row to get a head start. And a few possessions later, they converted another triple to take a 10-point lead.
The Wolverines fought back, though, tying the game at 20 by the end of the first frame. Michigan then pulled away quickly, notching an 86-50 victory.
Detroit Mercy no longer has forward Brianne Cohen or guards Anja Marinkovic and Nicole Urbanick — its three leading scorers from last year. Cohen and Urbanick were both seniors last season, and Marinkovic transferred to play at Florida Gulf Coast.
Now, forward Lexey Tobel leads the Titans with 13 points a game. In last year’s meeting, she scored a team-high 14 points. Bellman is their best rebounder, grabbing 7.8 boards per game. She also has the most steals and is tied for the most blocks, with a total of 11 and six, respectively.
This will be the Wolverines’ sixth time facing Detroit Mercy under Barnes Arico. She won the last five and will likely win again on Monday.
Regardless of the probable mismatch, the contest should allow Michigan to fine-tune its play and work out any remaining kinks before the season picks up pace. The weekend after Thanksgiving, the Wolverines will head to Estero, Fla. for the Gulf Coast Showcase.
It will also give Michigan a chance to further implement its depth, which has been a focal point this season.