If you look at the stat sheets before a game, you wouldn’t expect to see much of sophomore guard Danielle Rauch. She’s not the leading scorer for the Michigan women’s basketball team. Far from it, actually, as she averages just 1.3 points per game. Sometimes, she’ll even go an entire game without attempting a shot.
But when you watch her play, you see a much different story. On defense, she keeps her feet moving and disrupts opponents’ offensive flow. On offense, she helps her point guard — sophomore Amy Dilk — direct traffic. When a loose ball hits the floor, she’ll be on the floor with it in moments.
For the first half of the season, Rauch was the backup point guard. With Dilk having a bit of a breakout season, she didn’t see much playing time, tallying less than ten minutes in each of the first six Big Ten games. Rauch was a role player, and she accepted that.
But since senior forward Kayla Robbins’ season-ending injury, Rauch has started on the wing for the Wolverines against Rutgers, Northwestern and Iowa. Though she wasn’t much of a scorer in any of those contests — she totaled just nine shot attempts over that stretch — her palpable energy had a clear impact on her teammates.
“I love playing with Danielle because (of) her high energy. She’s always talking, she makes the hustle play,” Dilk said. “ … She really sets the tone for our team with the hustle plays, being aggressive, talking, communicating, just outworking everyone on the court.”
Even when Rauch goes to the bench, she’s often still the most energetic person on the floor. She claps after defensive stops, and leaps up to high-five the rest of the bench after a three is made. That kind of energy — especially from a role player — can help the team stay positive when down.
To be clear, it’s not that Rauch can’t score. She’s shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field this season, including making 7-of-17 from three. In Thursday’s loss at Northwestern, she buried a 3-pointer that cut the Wildcats’ lead to three midway through the fourth quarter.
She just recognizes she’s on a team full of elite scorers. Junior forward Hailey Brown is a sharpshooter at her best. Dilk and senior guard Akienreh Johnson can embarrass a defense on their way to the hoop. Sophomore forward Naz Hillmon is a borderline Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year candidate. Rauch can score, but her teammates change games.
“Danielle is very unselfish,” Hillmon said. “She’s an energy-giver, never an energy-taker, so she wants to give me the ball, she wants to give AK the ball, she wants to give Hailey the ball. But we’ve really been working in practice like ‘D, you need to get the ball. You’re just as good a shooter as anybody on the team.’ ”
Rauch has taken a difficult role — filling in for the team’s second-leading scorer — and embraced it. She may not appear on the stat sheet as much as her teammates, but she’s still a vocal leader on the team. Maybe it’s the point guard in her. Maybe she’s trying to prove something.
Either way, that energy’s not going away.