Flaherty shut down in blowout loss to Notre Dame
In blowing out No. 22 Michigan 83-63 at the Crisler Center on Wednesday night, No. 3 Notre Dame found the blueprint to beating the Wolverines: shut Katelynn Flaherty down and Michigan’s offense grinds to a halt.
The senior point guard shot just 5-for-18 from the field and 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, spending the night trying and failing to heat up from anywhere on the court. Not coincidentally, so did Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines scored less than a point per possession – 0.926 to be exact – as the Irish pulled away.
“I just think she didn’t have an open look the entire night,” said coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She was double-teamed every single time she came off a ball screen. They knew where she was in transition. She had contested shot after contested shot.”
It makes sense that a team of Notre Dame’s caliber would key in on Flaherty. She’s the program’s all-time leading scorer and she averages 23.7 points per game. Michigan, however, wasn’t ready for the Fighting Irish's airtight defense and Barnes Arico knew it.
“I think the growth of our team is going to be – we talked a little bit about this at halftime, but we didn’t get to it in the second half – 'Okay, if Katelynn is double-teamed, can we get the ball out of that double-team and make extra pass, extra pass enough to get an open, uncontested layup by someone?'
“And we’re not at the point yet of moving the basketball at that rate and getting Hallie (Thome) – cause a lot of times, Hallie was setting the screen, Hallie’s girl was doubling – get Hallie down to the block, move it, move it, move it, get Hallie an open layup. But the pressure of being double-teamed to make a good pass before people rotate – it’s gotta be boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.”
In all fairness, it is early in the year, the Wolverines did lose point guard Siera Thompson and Flaherty herself is still transitioning into the position. To the senior’s credit, she had eight assists and just one turnover on Wednesday.
But this is supposed to be a different Michigan team – one that can compete against teams like Notre Dame – and teams like that can't get taken out of rhythm when the first option is struggling. The Wolverines were in it for most of the game, but it never felt like the offense was good enough to overcome the 10-point deficit that was present from the first quarter on.
It wasn't and at the start of the fourth, 10 turned into 20 and Michigan lost the chance to come back.
Outside of postups from Thome, the Wolverines simply didn't have other means of scoring. They shot an abysmal 36.5 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three. Freshman forward Hailey Brown was the only player other than Thome and Flaherty to hit double-digit scoring and she did so on 4-of-11 shooting. The offense was stagnant at times and Notre Dame constantly closed off driving lanes.
“I think what happens – and it’s not Katelynn’s fault – I think everyone else stops and looks at Katelynn to make a play,” Barnes Arico said. “And when you have a really great player on your team, sometimes the rest of the team defers to her.”
On Wednesday, that happened most of the time. In the future, it can’t.