The past few weeks have been a series of ups and downs for Michigan women’s basketball senior guard Kate Thompson. The all-time program record holder for 3-pointers has led the team to its best start in program history, but the Wolverines will need her deep ball now more than ever as they head into the final stretch of conference play.
The 6-foot-4 native of Plymouth, Minn. surely isn’t the loudest player on the court, but her sharpshooting does most of the talking. Thompson’s 15.3 points per game and her 43.5 shooting percentage from behind the arc leads the entire Michigan roster.
It comes as no surprise, then, that when Thompson hits 3-pointers, the Wolverines tend to win games. But when she struggles to find the bottom of the net, Michigan (7-4 Big Ten, 18-6 overall) can’t find offensive consistency elsewhere. Prior to Sunday’s upset at Purdue, the Wolverines had lost four of six games, a stretch that coincided with Thompson’s worst slump of the year.
Against Penn State, Thompson hit just 3 of 14 attempts from deep in a losing effort. Though Michigan bounced back with a victory at Indiana three days later, Thompson continued to struggle, and shot 3 of 9 from 3-point range. A 1-for-5 shooting performance against Iowa was followed by her resilient effort in Minnesota when she finished with 18 points in the loss.
“I think in her mind, she shoots from wherever,” said senior guard Nya Jordan. “Kate will shoot a half-court 3-pointer and it will go in, because she doesn’t care where she shoots it from. She has so much confidence that she’ll shoot it wherever, whenever.”
Thompson’s past three games have mimicked her team’s roller-coaster ride through conference play. Michigan State’s Klarissa Bell locked down Thompson’s perimeter shooting and forced her into making just two 3-pointers on 10 attempts. Though her 5-for-15 shooting clip against Illinois wasn’t efficient, Thompson’s 15 total points were good enough to help Michigan preserve a momentum-changing win.
“Sometimes when you are a shooter and you don't shoot the ball well, you become a little hesitant,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “You are not shooting it with as much confidence, and it is almost like you are trying to force the ball to go in. I thought she did that a few times in the Illinois game when she was 5-for-16. She made two late (3-pointers) that she didn't even think about because we needed her to make them. I think her biggest thing is that she cannot hesitate, and she did a tremendous job (against Purdue).”
With her 22-point performance against the Boilermakers, Thompson has now turned in two straight Big Ten performances in which she finished with double-digit point totals. Purdue might just be the game that sets Thompson — and the Wolverines — back on a winning track.
“I think that is a big thing as a shooter, to know that we (the team) have confidence in you and you have the green light,” Barnes Arico said.