Dunston and Gondrezick highlight Big Ten opener
Nineteen seconds into the Big Ten opener, junior forward Jillian Dunston kick-started the scoring with a layup. The next three points for the Wolverines came from another layup and a free throw, all at the hands of Dunston.
The early scoring boost led the Michigan women’s basketball team (1-0 Big Ten, 12-3 overall) to a 63-50 win over Rutgers (0-1 Big Ten, 3-11 overall). While it was the Wolverines’ lowest scoring game to date, Dunston and freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick led the offensive charge with 11 and 18 points, respectively. Junior gaurd Katelynn Flaherty also made an impact later in the game, finishing with 13 points.
Dunston’s early five points turned out to be close to the majority of what she would score throughout the entire game. But according to Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, the early aggressiveness from Dunston is nothing new.
“She was a spark plug for us,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s our spark plug each and every single night. She came at the beginning of the game when they were really keying in on (Thome and Flaherty), and she was able to finish some plays really early on and I think that was really a lift for us. But she played incredibly hard throughout the game and she did a great job for us.”
Gondrezick continued, echoing Barnes Arico’s statement: “Jill, but that’s just her. She’s always so aggressive, and every team has to have a player like her.”
Gondrezick didn’t fail to make an impact as well. In her first game in the starting lineup, she led the team with 18 points and 36 minutes played. But her offensive presence on the court also came as no surprise, as Gondrezick was third on the roster in points per game with 12.9 before facing the Scarlet Knights.
The freshman also made her Big Ten debut with the pressure to be an offensive relief on the wing for Flaherty, serving as a replacement in the starting lineup for senior guard Danielle Williams. Despite the pressure, though, Barnes Arico felt Gondrezick was in good position to be in the starting lineup.
“I thought Kysre was ready for this opportunity, and she has shown that in the preseason,” Barnes Arico said. “I think she really took advantage of her opportunity tonight. … I think she just provides us another scoring threat, and also with her ability to be a playmaker. So I think that she stepped into the role and really did a great job with it tonight.”
Gondrezick and Dunston have proved to be reliable scorers in their performances on the court, but with Big Ten contests against Ohio State and Maryland coming up soon, the Wolverines will need to focus on maintaining offensive leads and battling physical teams like Rutgers if they want to maintain their position in the Big Ten.