The Michigan women’s basketball team is hoping to start the new year with a win.
For just the fourth time in program history, the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 12-3 overall) will play on the first day of the year, as they travel to Wisconsin (5-8) to face the Badgers and continue Big Ten play.
Wisconsin, though, will be starting conference play with its matchup against Michigan. The Badgers haven’t played a game since they beat Green Bay by only a point on Dec. 15.
Still, Wisconsin is averaging a reputable 65.3 points per game and leads the series with the Wolverines, 40-24.
Michigan, in its own right, will be facing the Badgers with a consistent starting lineup, save for guard Kysre Gondrezick who started for the first time in her collegiate career against Rutgers on Dec. 28.
But the freshman’s inclusion in the lineup has been supported by her fellow Wolverines.
“It allows me to create more opportunity for shooters,” said junior guard Jillian Dunston after the game against the Scarlet Knights. “Kysre created more offensive opportunities for us.”
But Gondrezick gives a lot of credit to Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.
“Everything that I’m doing now is what coach has talked to me about,” Gondrezick said. “She always tells me, ‘Everyone thinks you’re a scorer. To us you’re a playmaker.’
“I always get most excited when I make passes and (am) converting and making my teammates better.”
Gondrezick has scored in double figures 10 times this season and trails only junior guard Kaitlynn Flaherty in scoring. Flaherty is five points away from etching her name among the top five scorers in program history. She stands with 1,551 overall points and hopes to bump herself onto the list in the game against Wisconsin.
Despite Flaherty’s inevitable position in the record books, Barnes Arico considers Dunston — who has started all 15 games this year — to be the “spark plug” of the team.
Dunston averages just 5.9 points per game, but has grabbed at least six rebounds in nine contests, making her invaluable to the team’s defensive effort. The junior currently stands at 13th in the Big Ten for rebounds.
In addition to Dunston, senior guard Siera Thompson is also driving Michigan’s early success. She leads the team in assists and became the fourth Wolverine in program history to top the 400-assist mark. If she corrals a single rebound in the upcoming contest against the Badgers, she will become the first player in the program to notch 1,000 points, 400 assists and 400 rebounds.
With all aspects of the Wolverines’ game currently clicking on the court, Gondrezick revealed Michigan’s approach to the matchup in Madison was a simple one.
“We can only beat ourselves,” Gondrezick said. “We truly feel like there are other great teams. But if we work on our assignments, then we’ll be okay in this conference.”
Added Barnes Arico: “It’s a new season for us. Our preseason was long and a grind but it prepared us for nights like this where we’re going to face a different kind of team.”