After reaching 22 wins and tying the program’s record for most wins in a single season, the women’s basketball team has gone cold and has been unable to reach the elusive 23rd win, which would set a single season record. Having lost four of their last five games, the Wolverines look to bounce back if given the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.
On Friday, during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan faced rival Michigan State. For the second time this season, they were unable to stop Tori Jankoska and the Spartans, as they were eliminated from the tournament in a convincing 74-64 loss. The Spartans had a balanced offensive attack with four players scoring in double digits, and they took advantage of mismatches when Hallie Thome and Katelynn Flaherty sat down with foul trouble in the first half. The Spartans enjoyed the contributions off the bench from 6-3 center Jenna Allen, who went 6-8 from the field for 12 points, enjoying the lack of post defense when Thome was on the bench.
Moving forward, the Wolverines must get more production from their senior point guard Siera Thompson and the bench. Against the Spartans, Thome (16 points), Flaherty (18 points), and Kysre Gondrezick (23 points) combined for 57 of Michigan’s 64 points. However, without the help of their supporting cast, the Wolverines were unable to produce offensively and only shot 35.7% from the field. Thompson was 0-5 from the field and finished the game with a zero points, 2 assists and 5 turnovers. If the Wolverines want to have any postseason success they must get their point guard more involved in the offense.
As a young team, Michigan has many promising players. However, it appears that Coach Kim Barnes Arico does not trust her young bench to perform during these late season games. The only player off the bench to record more than three minutes against Michigan State was Nicole Munger (27 minutes), who scored only five points. Michigan will need the likes of freshman Kayla Robbins, junior Maria Backman, and senior Danielle Williams to add energetic minutes in reserve roles. Robbins has shown that she can be a capable post scorer, and Backman’s tremendous wingspan and leaping abilities gives her the means to snatch down rebounds and apply defensive pressure for the Wolverines. Although Williams hasn’t played much lately, she has shown an ability to impact a game with her defensive play and all-around hustle that inspires her teammates.
As Michigan practices this week and awaits its fate during Monday’s selection show (7:00 pm on ESPN), the team needs to harness a passion, energy, and desire to push over this hump and reach win number 23. The Wolverines should make the NCAA Tournament (although it’s not a guarantee after losing their last four of five games). However, they can’t just be satisfied with making the tournament. To prove that they truly have grown as a team and a program, Michigan must create some disruption within the tournament and win at least one more game. In order to do so, the Wolverines should look to junior Jillian Dunston, who is always fired up and ready to compete, and emulate her passion for the game. For the Wolverines, the talent is there but now they must put together all the pieces and, most importantly, believe in themselves and the process that has gotten them this far in their historic season.