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Posted on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 5:53 a.m.

Jenny Ryan transitions from facilitator to scoring threat for No. 25 Michigan women's basketball team

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan senior guard Jenny Ryan, right, has nearly double her scoring average since last year.

Courtney Sacco | file photo

Before first-year Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico had even run a practice in Ann Arbor, she knew she had to talk to Jenny Ryan.

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.”

Thumbnail image for jenny-ryan-duke-hoops.jpg

Michigan guard Jenny Ryan scrambles for a ball against No. 4 Duke.

Joseph Tobianski | file photo

Kris Hengesbach - who coached Ryan at Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central High School, has been watching from afar with enjoyment - seeing the Ryan that led her team to back-to back Class C state championships.

“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 He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Hey, Pete, Nice to see a couple of articles about the womens' BBall team. Thanks--they deserve it!

Pete Cunningham

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

Michigan is up to No. 23 in the rankings as of today. A win over Penn State would almost guarantee another rise I would think. "Quality of loss" will impact fall (if any) after a loss.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

True. I think it would be an indication that this is a special season in Michigan women's basketball history. Not to get carried away - they have to be at least 10-point underdogs tonight. I hope they're not too nervous. I think I'm going to go watch this one in person.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Thanks, Pete, for the informative article even with its technical difficulties. The Lady Wolverines lost at Utah by 19 points on November 16th and then lost at home to Duke by 17 points on November 28th, their fourth and eighth games of the year. Since then Michigan has won ten straight games but against less formidable teams. The Penn State game this evening will truly test the progress of the team since losing to Duke. If you can not attend the game then try watching it on BTN. A win today will leave Michigan alone at the top of Big Ten women's basketball and may provide an early indication of a very special season.

Pete Cunningham

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

Today will break the tie between Michigan and Penn State atop the Big Ten standings, but I wouldn't read too much into that. It's still early in the conference season, certainly too early to get hung up on who is atop the standings. But a strong (or weak) performance, as you alluded to, could definitely be an indication of how Michigan stacks up against the nation's elite.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Jenny Ryan pretty much won the Wisconsin game for Michigan. Wisconsin pretty much shut down Kate Thompson, and played Rachel Sheffer pretty tough. That means it fell on Ryan to score, and she did, with a career-high 19 points. I think the final play of the first half really showed Ryan's leadership. With the clock winding down, she drove to the basket, got fouled, and even then somehow managed to scoop it in. Making the free throw meant that U-M was down only two points at the end of the first half. That was just a great play. I hope a lot of fans come out tonight and suppor the team. It's going to be a tough game and they'll need as much fan support as they can get.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Geez, Pete. I know copy editors can't catch everything, but this is embarrassing. "Boyland" (it's Boylan) "bea able" "2-0 Big Ten" (they're 4-0) "change her roll" (it's role) "needed to discuss with, with Ryan" (I don't even know...) "has nearly double her scoring average" (doubled) "Arico expects Penn State to pressure defense to be similar to" (I think I know, but it's a mess) "Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley who average" (commas are your friend) "are No. 25 latest Associated Press rankings" (in the latest) "I am a capable (scoring)" (a wandered in there for the fun of it) "who coached Ryan won at Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central High School" (won wandered in there for the fun of it) Other than the absolute train-wreck full of grammar issues, it's a nice feature on Ryan. She's the heart of this team, and it's great to see her leadership paying off with a great start to the season. Five seniors in the top six in the rotation, though... I'm sure there's a lot of pressure on this team, and they really didn't do well in the two losses. Another focus for tonight's game - the best 3-point shooter in the country percentage-wise (Lucas for Penn State) against the leader in 3-pointers made per game (Kate Thompson). Michigan has never had a sharp-shooter quite as good as Thompson has been this year.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

I tried, but it was a little too early in the morning to be in good form. If there was a glaring weakness of the dearly departed A2 News, it was on the copy desk. They were never told to give stories a final read-through for coherence. That means, though, that writers have to get better at providing 20 inches of clean copy on deadline.

Pete Cunningham

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Thanks for pointing out the errors. Those corrections (and a few others) have been made. Don't worry about the few you missed. I don't expect you to catch everything. The Thompson vs. Lucas game within the game should be an interesting one. Could be very entertaining if both of those two heat up because, as you said, they can both make it rain.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.'s excellent "coverage." I miss the Ann Arbor News.