Sammie Jensen may need to remind herself every now and again she hasn’t changed teams. Seeing nine different teammates in the starting lineup will do that.
The roster shuffling has been necessary, as the Wolverines have seen one player perform well one night only to disappear the next. True freshman Taylor Huber started her first game Thursday after posting 17 points against Boise State the previous game. Against San Jose State? A forgettable 0-for-8 performance in 13 minutes of play.
The here-today gone-tomorrow issues have plagued the Wolverines (6-8) in their pre-conference schedule, leading to significant wins over the likes of Northern Arizona, Tulsa and Weber State as well as forgettable losses to Southern Utah, South Dakota and Boise State.
“Where we’re at is trying to find that consistency,” said head coach Cathy Nixon. “We have great moments, but right now we’re a team that has enough individual inconsistency that it brings a collective inconsistency that’s very frustrating.”
Thursday’s 57-45 loss to the Spartans showed the season’s worth of tinkering in one night. Head coach Cathy Nixon, after seeing the deficit balloon to 21 in the second half, put in three players that had seen a combined three minutes of playing time in the first half.
The lineup immediately brought energy to the game that had been lacking since the opening minutes. Alle Finch, Ashley Klemz and Kyra Prause combined for 12 points, eight steals and three blocks to help Sammie Jensen (18 rebounds) and Jenna Johnson (21 points) cut the lead to 10 with seven minutes remaining.
In a rush to get even closer, the Wolverines shot themselves out of the game, finishing 17-of-66 from the field. Utah Valley shot a combined 1-for-22 from 3-point land, a number swelled by the Wolverines’ attempts at a quick comeback bid.
Nixon lauded the team for its effort in the second half, one that might have led to a different outcome over 40 minutes. In their haste to catch up to San Jose State, however, Utah Valley continued to pull from deep and forgot to find Jensen in the low post. The junior forward is second on the team in field goal percentage (42.9 percent).
“As a coach it’s my job on the offensive end to provide shot opportunities to the right kids,” Nixon said. “We didn’t get Sammie the ball as much as we should have. She had six shots tonight. That’s not enough for her. I felt like we had good shots and it’s tough when you shoot that poor of a percentage.”
With two more games remaining before conference play begins, Nixon is hoping the team can steady itself before the losses bring heavier consequences in the standings.
“We’re in our preseason and the tail end of that. Preseason is to try to gel together as a team and get some consistency. Honestly we haven’t come as far along in that process as I hoped we would.”
By Matt Petersen – Sports Editor