Barnes Arico trims rotation during back end of weekend doubleheader
The Michigan women’s basketball team still hasn’t met its match, but it came closer this weekend. And as a result, the rotation finally dwindled.
The Wolverines (6-0) cruised to two wins, blasting Hartford, 83-47, on Friday and defeating Oral Roberts, 61-44, on Sunday. Despite the wide scoring gaps, both opponents gave Michigan more trouble than its first four had, and Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico had to account for that, particularly against the Golden Eagles on Sunday.
Barnes Arico kept a nine-player rotation most of the afternoon. The three starting guards — sophomore Katelynn Flaherty, junior Siera Thompson and senior Madison Ristovski — were subbed in and out for freshmen Nicole Munger and Boogie Brozoski, as well as junior Danielle Williams.
Sunday, all six guards played at least 15 minutes against the Golden Eagles.
In the post, freshman center Hallie Thome had already solidified her starting role before the start of the season. She is 6-foot-5, the tallest of any player on the team. Against Oral Roberts, she scored 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting. All of her points came down in the paint, but it’s not just her height that has led to her success.
“It’s her ability to catch the ball,” Thompson said. “She knows how to get rebounds, where to be on the court, how to seal. … She’s getting used to being on our offense and playing in college. She’s only going to get better from here.”
Added Barnes Arico: “To have a 6-foot-5 freshman that has her skill is really special. … I think people are putting two people on her, sometimes three people on her, and she’s still figuring out ways to score.”
Thome’s footwork and touch around the rim has been unparalleled. She isn’t the strongest physically, but everyone on the team is confident Thome will continue to improve.
Michigan doesn’t have a replacement for Thome in terms of size, but it does have a strong supporting cast at the ‘4’ spot with sophomore Jillian Dunston and senior Kelsey Mitchell.
Dunston swiped the starting role from Mitchell a few games into the season, largely because of her ability to rebound. Dunston is six inches shorter than Thome but far more aggressive on the glass, making her the team’s leading rebounder at this point in the season.
The sophomore had nine rebounds against Oral Roberts and eight against Hartford.
“If (Dunston) sees the ball, she’s going to get it no matter what,” Thome said. “It’s definitely great to have someone like her on the court all the time, because you know that we’ll come up with the rebound because of her toughness.”
Freshman forward Sam Trammel and sophomore guard Maria Backman both entered the game late against Oral Roberts to replace Thome, but at that point, the team was already up by 16 points with less than five minutes to go. In the fourth quarters of the previous games, Michigan usually had at least a 20-point lead, and it was mostly backups on the floor.
The Wolverines still have about a week before the competition is certain to stiffen up, when they travel to New Jersey to play Princeton. The Tigers have lingered just outside the top 25 so far, receiving votes but not enough to creep into the No. 25 spot.
So far, Michigan’s wins have come with enough breathing room to allow Barnes Arico to use all of the players at her disposal. This weekend was evidence, though, that the nine-player rotation on display Sunday is expected to continue.