Michigan stomps Cornhuskers on the road
After dropping the first game of its road trip to No. 3 Maryland on Thursday, the Michigan women’s basketball team was determined to return home from Nebraska with a win Sunday.
The Wolverines (5-2 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) thoroughly outplayed the struggling Cornhuskers (1-7, 5-16), executing on all facets of the game to earn an 84-51 victory. For the third time in four games, four Michigan players contributed double-digit points: freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick, sophomore guard Nicole Munger, sophomore center Hallie Thome, and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty.
Gondrezick set the tempo early in the first period, assisting Thome for a layup at the 8:57 mark, then stealing the ball and taking it for a layup of her own less than thirty seconds later. By the end of the first quarter, Gondrezick had seven points — including another fast-break layup — and went on to record 13 points, four assists and two boards.
Flaherty once again led the team in scoring, finishing the game with 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting, and Munger came off the bench to go 4-for-6 from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, Thome notched 15 points, working hard down low to make it to the free-throw line, where she went 7-for-9.
The collective scoring efforts from the quartet helped Michigan end the game with a noteworthy 57.4 shooting percentage from the floor. Flaherty, Thome and Gondrezick are Michigan’s top three scorers this season, but Munger’s 18-point performance was a season-high — and only one point shy of a career-high.
“(Munger) was outstanding,” Barnes Arico said. “She just gave us a different look from the floor spot. She’s a guard for us, but when Hallie went and got in foul trouble and they stayed in that zone, we needed another scoring threat on the inside. Nicole provided that.”
Despite the 33-point win, Nebraska appeared dangerous in the first quarter, shooting 70 percent from the floor. But Michigan’s defense stood tall to weather the storm, and the Cornhuskers' shooting fell to just 40.8 percent by the game’s end. Nebraska has typically relied on sophomore forward Jessica Shepard — the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year — but the Wolverines shut her down, limiting her to just four points.
Michigan’s primary defensive standouts were Thome and junior forward Jillian Dunston. Dunston had six rebounds and three assists against the Cornhuskers, outrebounded only by Thome, who had a team-high of eight defensive boards. But Dunston was the Wolverine who clearly overwhelmed the 6-foot-4 Shepard.
“(Shepard) was obviously a major concern for us after the performance she had last year,” Barnes Arico said. “I think (Dunston) has a year more experience underneath her belt, and I think our team does. We have a lot of pieces returning so we’re more of an experienced squad. We spent a lot of time talking about what we needed to do against her, and I thought we executed the game plan.”
Noticeably missing from the pack of double-digit scorers was senior guard and captain Siera Thompson, who scored just three points, but still contributed offensively with seven assists.
“I just think that (scoring) is probably number five on her list of things to do,” Barnes Arico said. “Her leadership has been incredible. ... She just does so much for us.”
While the Wolverines were expected to beat the basement-dwelling Nebraska, it was still a confidence-building victory for Michigan.
“I think it was a test of our team’s focus (to lock-in) on this game,” Barnes Arico said. “Especially after playing at Maryland, it’s easy to get up to play the number three team in the country. But to play them down to the wire, and then have to get ready for a team that’s at the bottom of the league right now, and at their place — teams can slip up on games like that. And I think tonight really showed our maturity.”