Michigan wins fifth straight, overpowering North Florida 79-34
There’s a hypnotic quality to one team taking another and dominating it in such a complete sense that the game is over by the end of the first quarter and everyone in the building knows it.
No. 24 Michigan (9-2) beat North Florida (5-5) 79-34 on Tuesday night at Crisler Center, as the points piled on until they became an avalanche. The Wolverines started the game on a 14-1 run highlighted by sheer totality.
Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty seemed to nail every shot she took, starting with an early drive and finish that set the tone for the rest of the game. Freshman forward Hailey Brown’s first basket came on a post-up where she managed to show off every bit of footwork possible before laying the ball in the net. Senior forward Jillian Dunston did her usual bit, pulling down nine first-half rebounds including a trademark offensive board with a group of defensive players around her.
As for the Ospreys, Adrienne Jackson scored the game’s first point off a free throw and didn’t put in another basket until there were exactly three minutes left in the first quarter.
“The last two games, we came out and other teams have jumped on us,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “And I think we came out not locked in on the defensive end. So tonight, the goal was, ‘We don’t care what’s happening on offense, we are gonna defend a heck of a lot better than we did at the start of Marquette and Kent State.”
When the horn sounded, it was 24-4. At halftime, North Florida was in double-digits, but barely, as Michigan led 46-15.
“We all decided that last game, we needed to brush under the rug,” Dunston said. “Thankful that we got a W (against Kent State), but I think we knew we could do much better and then we showed that today.”
The Wolverines controlled every aspect of the game. They out-rebounded, out-assisted, out-shot, and out-every-other-metric-you-could-think-of’d the Ospreys. Michigan dragged North Florida up and down the gym like a group of NBA players going against your local YMCA squad. It was the most dominating game of basketball we’ve seen all year from a team that’s lost just twice all year, both against teams in the top-three of the latest AP poll.
The peak came in the third quarter: freshman guard Deja Church found Katelynn Flaherty cutting towards the basket. Before the defense could so much as react to the threat of Flaherty, she flipped it to junior center Hallie Thome under the basket. Thome dropped it in while the Ospreys were still figuring out who was helping on Flaherty.
“I think recently, when I’m driving, a lot of people are collapsing around me and kind of just scouting me – I know I’ve gotten (called for) a few charges off of that,” Flaherty said. “So I’m trying to have more body control there and I saw them stepping up, so I knew Hallie has really good hands and I know she catches a lot of my passes, so I kind of saw it before it happened and I just threw it. It slipped through there.”
All game long, North Florida reacted. Michigan anticipated. That disparity is perhaps the single-biggest reason why the Wolverines won by 45.
On the defensive end, the Wolverines have now held four of their last five opponents to 50 or fewer points. Unsurprisingly, they won all four of those (and, for that matter, the fifth, an 82-76 nail-biter against Marquette.)
“In the beginning of the year, we weren’t really showing what we could do on defense,” Dunston said. “Whether that’s blocking out or stopping your girl one-on-one, I think we’ve put a huge emphasis on that in the past month and now it’s starting to put off and people are putting effort into it, so it looks good.
“I think (beating) Marquette was the biggest a-ha moment for offense and defense. I think it really showed what we’re capable of on both ends and when we play our best, we can really beat anybody.”