Jenny Ryan transitions from facilitator to scoring threat for No. 25 Michigan women's basketball team
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo
Barnes Arico needed more out of Ryan.
More? In her junior season, Ryan was an All-Big Ten defensive team selection, led the Wolverines in minutes played, steals (98), assists (132 with a 2.5:1 turnover ratio) and rebounds (205).
A heftier contribution seems like the last thing Barnes Arico needed to discuss with Ryan.
In fact, Barnes Arico didn’t end up needing to have a discussion with Ryan, and that’s because Ryan was already thinking the same thing.
“It was her turn to change her role and to get more involved in the offense. Not that she wasn’t involved, she was making great passes and good decisions, but now she had to take some more shots for us, so that’s a conversation I had with Jenny even before our first practice,” Barnes Arico said. “And she’s like ‘Coach, I know.’”
So the player whose job it was to do basically everything but score for Michigan was asked to do that as well. With Carmen Reynolds (8.6 points per game) and Courtney Boylan (12.7 ppg) gone, Ryan knew the extra scoring was needed.
Through 17 games, Ryan’s scoring average this season has nearly doubled from 6.8 to 11.4 points per game. The Wolverines are off to a 15-2 start (4-0 Big Ten), the best in program history, and are No. 25 in the latest Associated Press rankings.
“I did do it in high school and so I knew it was somewhere inside of me and that I am a capable (scorer),” Ryan said. “And at the same time, I knew I wasn’t going to change the player that I am and that got us to this point.”
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file photo
“It’s been great to see,” Hengesbach said. “Coach Arico has entrusted her to be the leader on that team and when you give Jenny that reign and that leadership and that trust, she’s going to do great things for her team.”
Ryan hasn’t shied from her other responsibilities this season, leading the team in both steals and assists through 17 games and filling up the score sheet when need be. Last Sunday against Wisconsin, Michigan trailed 9-0 to start the game and others were struggling from the field.
Ryan responded with a career-high 19 points.
"She’s smart enough to know that ‘hey, we’re struggling a lot here I need to be involved in the offense,’” Barnes Arico said. “Or ‘hey, somebody else has the hot hand, I can get them the ball and we’re ok.’”
“You can come in and have a scorer’s mentality, but also know that it’s not the only thing I can contribute,” Ryan said.
No. 25 Michigan vs. No. 8 Penn State
No. 25 Michigan takes on No. 8 Penn State (14-2, 4-0 Big Ten) at the Crisler Center on Monday (6:30 p.m. Big Ten Network).
After facing just one ranked opponent so far this season - a 71-54 loss to No. 4 Duke on Nov. 28 - four of Michigan’s next 10 games will be against ranked teams.
“The schedule played in our favor,” Barnes Arico said. “We have some tougher ranked opponents in our league coming up, so our kids are smart enough to know that and they know it’s only going to get tougher.
“As much as the ranking is nice and we feel like we’ve accomplished and we feel like we’re doing things that haven’t been done, either before or in a really long time, we still know that we have a tough road ahead.”
Barnes Arico expects Penn State's pressure defense to be similar to what the team experienced against Duke.
Limiting transition baskets and slowing down Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley, who average 19.8 and 12.8 points and 2.6 and 4.1 steals per game, respectively, will be essential to Michigan’s success.
“They have two of the best guards in the country, if we can slow them down a little bit - we’re not going to be able to stop them - but if we can slow them down I think that will help us,” Barnes Arico said.
Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.