No. 3 Notre Dame to test Michigan

Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty's scoring may not be enough for the Wolverines to overcome Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty's scoring may not be enough for the Wolverines to overcome Notre Dame on Wednesday night. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 1:23pm

The Michigan women’s basketball team does it all. 

The Wolverines have shown they can rebound, score and play defense. They can also turn the ball over.

And against No. 3 Notre Dame (6-0) on Wednesday night at Crisler Center, No. 22 Michigan (4-1) will have to limit those turnovers to have any real chance of competing.

“We gotta take care of the basketball,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on WTKA after the team’s win Saturday against Ohio — a game in which Michigan committed 23 turnovers.

The Wolverines have struggled to take care of the ball throughout the season, averaging 19.2 turnovers per game. These turnovers kill Michigan’s momentum on offense and make the team reliant on the defense bailing it out on the other end.

Despite the turnovers, the Wolverines still find the basket. Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty has led the offensive effort, averaging 25.8 points and four assists per game, and she has stepped up when the Wolverines needed her. In last weekend’s game against the Bobcats, for instance, she scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

But Michigan will need more than just Flaherty’s valiant effort this Wednesday. Coming off an impressive 92-85 win against then-No. 3 South Carolina on Sunday, the Fighting Irish will look to strike again.

And they have all the tools to do so.

Guards Arike Ogunbowale and Jackie Young have been central to Notre Dame’s offense, averaging 18.8 and 17.8 points per game, respectively. The matchup between these two and Michigan’s backcourt — Flaherty and junior guard Nicole Munger — will be an essential factor.

Over the last few games, the Wolverines significantly stepped up their rebounding effort. Led by senior forward Jillian Dunston — who averages 9.6 rebounds a contest — Michigan has outrebounded its opponents 40.4 to 33.2, and will need to keep it up Wednesday night.

But this will be tough.

The Fighting Irish are also outrebounding their opponents — but by an even larger margin, 47.2 to 33.5 — and will be fierce near the glass. Forward Jessica Shepard leads Notre Dame with 9.3 rebounds per game, and could cause havoc for the Wolverines.

“We definitely gotta handle pressure,” Barnes Arico said. “Then we gotta rebound with them. … We gotta get some people scoring the basketball other than Kate and Hallie or else we become really easy to defend.”

Wednesday night’s matchup against the Fighting Irish will be Michigan’s second test of the season. The Wolverines flunked their first, falling 74-49 to then-No. 5 Louisville in the preseason WNIT semifinals.

Against the Cardinals, though, Michigan led at halftime and showed it can compete with high-caliber teams. But in the second half, everything broke down.

There lies the problem.

And if the Wolverines want to fix that problem, they’ll have to put it all together for four quarters against the Fighting Irish.

“I think our kids will be fired up for the opportunity,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s wonderful when you get to play one of the top teams in the country. … Everyone will be excited and it’ll be a great night.”

The exam is coming whether Michigan is ready or not. If the Wolverines put it all together all four quarters, maybe they will pass.