By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
It’s finally here. The University of Michigan-Dearborn women’s basketball team will make its long-awaited trip to Michigan’s Crisler Center Saturday to take on Albion College.
The game, which has a noon tip, is the first part of a Michigan triple header. The Michigan women’s basketball team faces Miami (Ohio) at 2:30 p.m. and the men’s team hosts Youngstown State at 6 p.m.
For the UM-Dearborn Wolverines, the excitement for Saturday is premature with final exams occurring this week, but head coach Dymetrius Ware hopes it grows as the game nears.
“It’s got everyone kind of stressing out right now. Last year when I talked to the staff over there in ann arbor and they picked this date, I said, ‘Awesome, great.’ It was probably out of the fact that they just said yes. I didn’t realize it was the same week as finals…it probably wasn’t a good idea but beggars can’t be choosers.
“I think the exciting part will come Thursday night, Friday. The anticipation will grow once they get through the finals and they’ll be excited. We’re expecting a competitive game and they’re hungry for a win. They’re going to come out like pit bulls this Saturday and really try to represent the university well.”
The same boat
UM-Dearborn has yet to win a game this season. The Wolverines are 0-12 entering the final non-exhibition game of the fall semester.
At 1-7, Albion is in a similar situation. Each of the Britons’ games have been close except for one, a 24-point loss to Calvin on Dec. 12.
Nonetheless, Ware is expecting a tough battle. The Britons have held opponents to 62.8 points per game and a 40.5 field goal percentage through eight games.
“They play man, they play a real intense man defense,” Ware said. “They like to deny the passes back to the guards.”
Albion is anchored by senior forward Darian Payne. She’s averaged 12.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game this season.
Sophomore forward Erin Nelson has chipped in 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Megan Swick is UM-Dearborn’s leading scorer. The sophomore guard has averaged 9.3 points per game in seven games this season. She missed nearly a month of the season but returned to action Dec. 7 against Grace Bible College.
Ware said Swick “hasn’t been 100 percent pretty much all year,” but expects her to play against Albion.
“Megan’s cleared to play and we expect her to play as many minutes as we need her to play Saturday,” he said.
Freshman Emily Heinrich has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines at forward. She’s averaged 8.2 points per game in 12 games this season.
Size shouldn’t be an issue for either team. The Wolverines have players ranging from 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-11, while Albion has a much broader range: 5-foot-2 to 6 feet.
“I think size will help but it’s all about heart,” Ware said. “There’s a YouTube video out there that’s about a little Chihuahua…who chased away two baby bear cubs, literally chased them off their porch. He just continuously went at (them)…the bears could have slapped him and he would have went a mile-and-a-half.
“We’ve kind of had that attitude where we want to be that Chihuahua, just try to go at people and continue to keep going. Win or lose or draw, they know they’ve been in a fight and we’re not going anywhere.”
Home away from home
When UM-Dearborn adopted the Wolverine namesake in 2013, it was the start of a closer relationship with the Ann Arbor campus.
The women’s basketball team gets the first shot to represent the university on its sister campus. And the Wolverines want to make a good impression for their host.
“We want Ann Arbor to feel comfortable enough to want us back every year,” Ware said. “We want to make sure our staff and our department do everything right that we can to make this not a burden on them or make it harder for them to do their event.”
There’s some pressure that comes with being the lead of a triple header.
“It’s just not another game,” Ware said. “I would love to get to the point where it is just another game in the future but right now…it is going to set the standards of how we do this in the future and whether we’re able to do this in the future.”
UM-Dearborn is taking a business-trip mentality into this weekend.
The Wolverines will arrive to Crisler Center early Saturday morning to face Albion. They’ll stay for the second leg of the triple header before trekking to Grand Rapids Saturday night for their team Christmas party and a Sunday afternoon exhibition game vs. Grand Valley State.
“We’re looking at it as a business trip. It gives us some time to bond and hang out together before we break off for the holidays,” Ware said.
Try as they may, the Wolverines have yet to win a game this season. They have a chance to do just that on their “business trip.” Should Saturday be the day the zero in the win column disappears, it would be that much sweeter.
“Everything for Christmas would taste better,” Ware said. “The dinner, the presents, the family, everything else would feel better going into the new year with that win.”