Michigan outlasts scrappy Oakland, 78-69
Prior to Wednesday night’s game, a montage celebrating Katelynn Flaherty played at the Crisler Center. Last week, the guard became the Michigan women’s basketball team’s all-time leading scorer. While it was Flaherty’s night, the game belonged to junior Hallie Thome.
The center finished the night with 29 points and 10 rebounds in the 25th-ranked Wolverines’ 78-69 victory over Oakland (2-3).
“We’ve really been working on getting Hallie Thome touches in the post,” said coach Barnes Arico. “I thought tonight we were able to take advantage of that. She had a tremendous night for us.”
Despite strong play from Thome and Flaherty – who finished with 26 points – the Wolverines (3-1) struggled to pull away. Each time Michigan would establish a lead, the Golden Grizzlies would respond.
Both Thome and Barnes Arico agreed that the Wolverines weren’t getting the stops they needed on defense. But they also credited Oakland for those struggles.
“They made plays, they were scrappy,” Barnes Arico said. “They did not go away and continued to make big shots. It was a great test for us at this point in the year.”
The first half saw back-and-forth action in which neither team could gain a definitive advantage. Going into the halftime break, Michigan led by a slim 31-29 margin.
Throughout the game, the Wolverines continuously pounded the ball inside, looking for Thome and freshman forward Hailey Brown in the paint. Michigan finished with 32 points from that part of the court. But while the game plan was to play inside out – getting the ball to the post and then kicking it to outside shooters – the Wolverines converted just three shots from behind the arc.
On the opposite side, Oakland relentlessly shot the ball from three. The Golden Grizzlies finished the game with nine buckets from distance.
“You have to hope they miss,” joked Barnes Arico. “We tried to contest them, we tried to get out, and we tried to locate them, but they exposed us and got some open shots. You can’t take possessions off, and they made us pay when we did.”
One of the players that took advantage of poor defensive possessions was Oakland’s Taylor Gleason. The guard carved through the Wolverine defense, scoring 12 points and recording seven assists. Michigan is familiar with Gleason, who played two years at Illinois before becoming a Golden Grizzly.
Despite strong play from Gleason down the stretch, the differentiator was at the free-throw line. The Wolverines were able to draw plenty of fouls and then capitalize on them, outscoring Oakland from the charity stripe, 25 to 12.
While Michigan was able to come out on top against a scrappy Golden Grizzly team, the Wolverines will have to increase their defense intensity by the time Big Ten play rolls around. Thome isn’t concerned, though.
“We have to take it day by day,” Thome said. “We need to focus on getting better and going hard every play at practice. We have all the pieces. We just need to put it all together.”