Michigan showcases offensive balance against Minnesota

Sunday, January 15, 2017 - 9:32pm

Since the start of Big Ten play, the Michigan women’s basketball team (4-1 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) has begun to solidify its identity as a collection of highly-skilled scorers, and that has never been more obvious than during its 84-69 win against Minnesota on Sunday.

While the Golden Gophers (1-4, 10-8) were led by guard Carlie Wagner, who tallied 38 of their 69 points, it was hard to notice her performance at times. Four Wolverines — sophomore center Hallie Thome, junior guard Katelynn Flaherty, freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick and senior guard Siera Thompson — captured all the attention with double-digit performances of their own.

Just 14 seconds after tip-off, Thome started off the game with a layup, and she added six more points down low in the first quarter alone. Capitalizing on her size advantage in the paint, Thome set the tone for her eventual 20-point game.

Her interior dominance didn’t just help Michigan on offense, though. Thome notched 17 total rebounds to set a new career high, and earn her second straight double-double as well.

“She’s very much improved on her rebounding game, which I think helps us a lot,” Flaherty said.  “Because it lets (the other team) not go and transition, and it gives us second chance opportunities. I’m very proud of her.”

Flaherty had an impressive showing as usual, knocking down four 3-pointers on seven attempts in the first half to widen the Wolverines’ lead to 25 by halftime. Flaherty ended up leading the team in scoring — finishing with 22 points — after bypassing Thome’s tally with to back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter.

While Flaherty and Thome were trading baskets, Gondrezick was putting on a show herself. She racked up 17 points, with three assists and three boards to boot. In the third quarter, especially, it looked as though Gondrezick might overtake her older teammates’ point totals, as she scored six points and showed no signs of slowing down.

“I think it’s just fun to have that many people that can score,” Flaherty said. “I think that’s really helped our team a lot. Kysre being added into the mix, someone who can score twenty points a game, that really relieves the pressure on us guards and Hallie as well.”

Not to be overlooked, Thompson tallied 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, with four rebounds and seven assists as well. A product of her relentless tenacity all over the court, Thompson also earned four personal fouls, but she kept herself in the game with smart decisions on defense.

“I feel really comfortable today with my shot and attacking the basket,” Thompson said. “My game plan was to attack them and make them uncomfortable defensively, and I think we did that.”

For the second consecutive game, this quartet of Wolverines reached double-digit scoring totals, and with a 15-point win as the result, it is clear that any team that boasts scorers with the same level of productivity as Michigan should make opposing teams feel uneasy.

“I think we just have great balance,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We always talked about it from the beginning of this season. The strength of our team is the balance of our team. I thought tonight they all clicked together at times, which was really great to see.”