Thome's effort topples Wright State in second round of WNIT

Saturday, March 18, 2017 - 6:16pm

The Michigan women’s basketball team narrowly squeaked by Wright State in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Saturday. Sophomore Hallie Thome was a major factor in the Wolverines’ 71-66 win. With her 23 points, the 6-foot-5 center surpassed the 1,000-point mark, becoming just the third sophomore in school history to do so.

“It's definitely exciting to reach 1,000 points,” Thome said. “But all my shots are worth two points, so there are 500 assists out there that I couldn’t have reached it without.”

Right from the start, Thome put her stamp on the game, scoring the first two layups for Michigan and making her first seven shots in a row. She tallied 14 points by halftime and proved to be a difficult mark for the Raiders to guard down low. Her teammates took advantage of her length by lobbing passes inside — some of which looked impossible to catch — which Thome buried.

“I thought Hallie was incredible,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She came out of the gates scoring every which way. Just really a tough matchup for them. She has such great hands. She has such great finishing around the rim and she made some big plays for us down the stretch.”

Despite Thome’s efforts, the Wolverines let a 20-point lead slip away completely, and it nearly cost them the game.  

Michigan went down 64-63 with 4:52 left in the fourth quarter — the first time Wright State took the lead all game. But Thome brought the Wolverines out of their deficit. Her signature layup and 61.5 percent field goal percentage allowed her teammates to trust her and get her the ball, even in an intense postseason scenario.

“Our game plan didn’t change,” said junior guard Jillian Dunston. “As you can see, Hallie still killed it in the second half.”

Thome’s reliability goes beyond just making baskets. She earned seven boards against the Raiders, second only to Dunston’s 11. Dunston leads Michigan in rebounds, with 251, and Thome is right behind her with 238. Each of them has over 100 rebounds more than any other Wolverine.

Despite her massive contributions, Thome also has the highest number of fouls, with 93 on the season. Notably, she only picked up one foul against the Raiders, meaning she was not forced to play conservatively.

“I tend to get in a little bit of foul trouble,” Thome said after playing Kent State on Thursday night. “(When you get in foul trouble) its definitely a different style of play. You kind of have to change your game to make sure you don’t pick up another one.”

Without Thome on the court, Michigan has unexceptional height and less inside presence, and it is forced to rely more heavily on its guards. When she is in the game though, she is always effective. For the Wolverines to win the WNIT, Thome will need to continue avoid foul trouble, and keep on scoring.