Wolverines bounce back against Wisconsin
Following a road loss to then-No. 23 Iowa on New Year’s Eve, the No. 22 Michigan women’s basketball team looked to bounce back Thursday night at Wisconsin.
That’s exactly what happened. The Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 13-3 overall) notched an 80-57 victory against the Badgers (0-3, 7-9).
Michigan’s offense started hot, finding success in the paint. Center Hallie Thome showed off quick footwork and scored a couple quick baskets to get the Wolverines on the board early. The junior finished the night with 20 points.
With Thome and contributions from freshman forward Hailey Brown, Michigan outworked Wisconsin down low throughout the opening quarter. But the Badgers didn’t call it quits, tying the game at 11 just over six minutes in.
The contest would remain tied for the next two minutes, as both sides failed to execute on offense.
But when freshman guard Deja Church came charging down the court, things took a turn. Church attacked the basket hard from the right side and scored a quality layup to break the tie and provide some energy in what was becoming an uneventful game.
Church’s play created a spark for Michigan, and senior guard Katelynn Flaherty followed up with a three-point play to further build the momentum. The Wolverines then began pressing. This caused a turnover, which led to another Michigan bucket and an 18-11 lead at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was even-sided, but the Wolverines faced some challenges. Thome got called for her second foul early on and had to sit out for most of the stanza.
“She might as well foul them really hard,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico to WTKA, “because the soft ones are being called fouls.”
To make matters worse, Flaherty struggled to get into her rhythm offensively and was, at one point, 1-for-7 from the field. Wisconsin’s zone defense was locked on her, and she appeared to be a bit rattled. But when Flaherty struggled, junior guard Nicole Munger stepped up.
Midway through the quarter, Munger dove on the floor for a loose ball, winning the possession back for her team. Munger’s hustle — coupled with her 10 points on the night — helped Michigan’s offense compete when its stars were having trouble.
“I thought Nicole made some great shots,” Barnes Arico said.
But the Badger’s leading scorer, guard Cayla McMorris, then settled in on offense. After missing the last three contests, she finished the night with eight points, and her 3-pointer in the second quarter helped keep the game somewhat close and Michigan’s lead at 31-24 at halftime.
Though Wisconsin cut into the Wolverines’ lead early in the third quarter, the second half, overall, was more of what you would expect when a ranked team faces the last team in the Big Ten standings.
After finally finding more strength on defense and leadership from its stars, Michigan started to pull away. Flaherty looked more like herself, and ended the night with 25 points, despite going 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
“I thought Katelynn made some great reads for some open shots too,” Barnes Arico said.
The Wolverines were up 54-42 heading into the final quarter when they really put the pedal to the metal, outscoring the Badgers, 26-15, to secure their victory.
Not only did the victory provide Michigan the confidence it lacked following its previous loss, but it also helped Barnes Arico make history. She now holds the record for the most wins in program history, with 124, passing Sue Guevara.
“There was some celebrating,” Barnes Arico said. “I got a little bit of a splash and the seniors presented me with a maize jersey with my name on it and 124 on it, so that was pretty awesome. That was pretty special.”