Michigan makes statement with blowout of Georgia Tech

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - 9:55pm

Katelynn Flaherty made a run in the second half to finish with 25 points.

Katelynn Flaherty made a run in the second half to finish with 25 points. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

 

Entering Thursday night, the Michigan women’s basketball team was ranked 27th in the coaches’ poll and 33rd in the Associated Press poll. Georgia Tech’s respective rankings were 29th and 31st.

While those placements would suggest a close contest between the two teams in Atlanta on Thursday night, the Wolverines had very different plans. Michigan (7-1) rode multiple double-digit scoring runs en route to a 92-52 victory against the Yellow Jackets (6-1). Junior guard Katelynn Flaherty led the Wolverines with 25 points while junior forward Jillian Dunston nabbed a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds,

“Definitely didn’t expect it,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico regarding the blowout. “We came out of the gate and jumped on them right away. We never really looked back. We kicked their butt and I didn’t think we were going to do that coming into someone’s home court, especially a team that was 6-0 and had some real quality wins.”

Michigan dominated from the start, scoring the first nine points of the contest. Sophomore center Hallie Thome accounted for four of the Wolverines’ early points with her two layups, while senior guard Siera Thompson and Flaherty accounted for three and two, respectively, in the opening minutes.

“I thought Hallie was great,” Barnes Arico said. “She made their defense really difficult because she ran so well. When our guards are shooting that well, they were trying to pick, ‘Ok, who am I going to match up with?’ and Hallie was able to get some easy buckets.”

Georgia Tech showed much more fight in the remainder of the quarter, scoring five consecutive points at the end of the period to trim its deficit to 23-16. It seemed like the expected dogfight between the Wolverines and the Yellow Jackets was on.

But Michigan quickly put any illusions of a close game to rest in the second quarter.

Nursing a 27-20 lead with 7:25 left until halftime, the Wolverines put together a 12-0 run, during which freshman guard Kysre Gonderezick put up seven points. Gonderezick finished the game with 15 points, and Michigan took a 45-28 advantage into the intermission.

The gap between the two teams only grew in the second half.

Already holding a 47-31 lead with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter, the Wolverines went on a scorching 19-0 run to put the contest far out of reach for Georgia Tech. Flaherty accounted for nine of Michigan’s 19 points in that stretch.

“Just getting to the rim was important,” Flaherty said. “My outside shot wasn’t really falling tonight. But I hit all of my foul shots, which was big. That was a big confidence booster for me.”

With Thursday night’s win, the Wolverines now have two victories over opponents who have received votes in the coaches’ poll — they defeated then-No. 25 Gonzaga, 78-66, on Nov. 24. These victories might be enough to propel Michigan into the top 25 on Monday.

But the Wolverines will have to not let potential rankings go to their heads, especially with three more road games before their next matchup at Crisler Center. They were in a similar position last year, but a 74-57 loss at Princeton on Dec. 6 prevented them from cracking the top 25.

“I think we can play with any team,” Flaherty said. “Tonight, coming in and beating a 6-0 team what has some pretty good wins by 40 points should make a statement. But we need to keep a level head, stay humble and continue to work hard.”