Michigan dominates Michigan State, 74-48

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 9:46pm

Katelynn Flaherty finished with 26 points and six assists.

Katelynn Flaherty finished with 26 points and six assists. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

 

The game tipped off at 7:00. It was over by 7:10.

It took just over five minutes of game time for the No. 16 Michigan women’s basketball team (7-2 Big Ten, 18-4 overall) to build up an 18-4 first quarter lead over Michigan State (4-4, 14-7). The Spartans never came back, or came close to doing so, as the Wolverines cruised to a 74-48 win.

Ironically, things started tenuously, as junior guard Nicole Munger turned the ball over after Michigan State trapped a pick-and-roll on the game’s first possession, leading to a transition layup. The next time down, when the Spartans pulled the same trick against senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, she nearly lost her dribble as well. But she found it, along with junior center Hallie Thome for a layup.

By the time the Spartans scored again, Flaherty had scored six points and notched a second assist. She rained fire early on, hitting two 3-pointers off screens, then finding freshman forward Hailey Brown under the basket when the entire Michigan State defense gravitated to Flaherty in transition.

In the first half alone, Flaherty created 22 points — 12 of her own doing and 10 off assists. By the end of the game, that number was up to 41, through 26 points and six assists, over half of the Wolverines’ 74 points.

“She got away from us a couple times, but, I mean, she gets an open look, it’s down,” said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant. “I don’t care if she’s playing Michigan State, Ohio State — it doesn’t matter. That kid is a great, great shooter.”

No matter the question, Flaherty was the answer. When the Spartans drew within 10 at the start of the second half — the only time all game in which a comeback seemed within reach — she hit a 3-pointer, drew a foul in transition (hitting both free throws), assisted a Munger triple, then drained a running transition hook shot along with the ensuing free throw.

A 36-26 lead ballooned to 47-31. Whatever hope Michigan State had died. The rest of the contest was a mere formality.

“Going into this game, we knew that they send all of their players to the offensive glass,” Flaherty said. “So we knew we could run in transition. They’re a bigger team, a slower team compared to us, so I think we really took advantage of that.”

The win marked Michigan’s fifth in a row, a streak that now includes wins over both the Wolverines’ rivals. In a year that will be defined by whether or not Michigan continues on its current path to make the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines are galvanized by the scars of being left out last season.

“We got robbed last year, not getting to the NCAA Tournament,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “And they have been on a mission since that announcement at March Madness. And we went on to win the WNIT Championship, but they didn’t even stop working after that win. They came back this year hungrier than ever...all of our returners have something to prove. They have a chip on their shoulder.

“...It doesn’t ever end. I think it’s a constant reminder, because the people that came before them never got to experience it. So (graduate assistant) Danielle Williams and Siera Thompson, who were seniors for us last year, they’ll never get that back. So it is a pain, like it’s a gut-wrenching pain that will never go away. And I think this year’s team is on a mission for all Michigan players, that this is for you.”

Tuesday was a rivalry victory, yes, and one against a program Michigan had gone 3-8 against during Barnes Arico’s tenure coming into tonight.

But it was also one step closer to avenge last season's “robbing, and that’s how the Wolverines will remember it.