Just five games into the season, the Michigan women’s basketball team has started to turn one of its biggest challenges from last year into one of its biggest strengths — offensive rebounding.
And throughout the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, the Wolverines demonstrated their rebuilt attack on the boards. Last season, Michigan was 10th in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding, averaging just 10.4 per game. Now, it sits atop the conference on the offensive glass, tallying 17.8 rebounds per game.
And while every one of the Wolverines is contributing, this drastic improvement is spearheaded by one new addition in particular: graduate forward Taylor Williams.
In the first two games of the season, Williams struggled to hit the glass. But in Michigan’s win over South Dakota on Sunday, she finally broke through. With a staggering 18 total boards – 12 of them offensive – Williams proved Sunday that she can bring the success she found at Western Michigan to a high-major team.
“I was just happy that I was able to be a rebounding presence (against the Coyotes),” Williams said Sunday. “(I was happy to) help all my teammates and clean up on the defensive glass. So yeah, I would say this is a signature game.”
Williams’ “signature game” was reminiscent of her time with the Broncos. She averaged nine rebounds per game over the course of her Western Michigan career, and based on her performance this weekend, Michigan believes she can maintain that margin. Even when she wasn’t scoring the ball, Williams’ ability to grab offensive boards helped earn extra possessions.
And that success is not only cementing Williams as one of the Wolverines’ best rebounders, but also as one of the best rebounders in the conference. Through five games, Williams is currently first in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds with 20 thus far — four more than the next closest player.
When Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico scanned the transfer portal following last season, she was looking for someone who could rebound the ball effectively — and she found that in Williams.
“(Williams) has figured out her niche on our team,” Barnes Arico said Sunday. “I (try) to tell her every day that I believe in her. She’s going to make an impact on our program and her time here and I think the rest of the world had an opportunity to see that today. She has an incredible motor to the glass.”
Throughout the weekend, that motor to the glass was not exclusive to just Williams, as the Wolverines had different rebounding leaders each game. Senior forward Cameron Williams was also active on the boards, averaging 5.3 rebounds a game throughout the tournament and leading the team with eight rebounds — four of them offensive — in the Wolverines’ loss to Ole Miss on Monday. Even graduate guard Lauren Hansen — despite being 5-foot-8 — had a turn as the team rebounding leader for Michigan, recording seven boards during the Wolverines’ win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
And this weekend, when Michigan’s shots weren’t falling, nabbing rebounds kept the Wolverines competitive. Michigan struggled to score in its outing against the Rebels, finishing the game with a 24.2 % shooting clip from the field. On Saturday, the Wolverines shot just 33.3% from the floor in the first half, but its 28 team rebounds kept the ball in their hands — and more importantly, out of their opponents’.
“As bad as our shooting was, we hung with one of the best rebounding teams in the country,” Barnes Arico said after the loss to Ole Miss. “I was really proud of the way that we battled on the glass.”
The Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament allowed the Wolverines to showcase their growth on the glass early into the season. With Taylor and Cameron, Michigan may have turned rebounding into a strength. But going forward the Wolverines hope to turn that prowess into more sustained success than they had this weekend.