Wolverines earn convincing WNIT win over Bucknell, 95-72
It is generally safe to assume Katelynn Flaherty will be the leading scorer for the Michigan women’s basketball team in any given game. When the ball releases from her right hand, most of the crowd and everyone on the floor believes it’s going in. But in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, Flaherty struggled to find the bottom of the net.
On Saturday, though, Michigan didn’t need her to. The rest of the Wolverines picked up the load en route to a 95-72 win over Bucknell to advance further in the WNIT.
“I’m just trying to keep this season going as long as I can,” said senior guard Madison Ristovski.
Freshman center Hallie Thome was the focus of Michigan’s offense early on. Thome scored seven points within the first five minutes of the game as the two Bucknell players who were defending her combined to earn three fouls. Junior guard Danielle Williams drew two and-1s on circus-shot baskets during Thome’s run, helping the Wolverines maintain their early lead. Along with two 3-pointers by junior guard Siera Thompson, Michigan led at the end of the first quarter, 29-24.
The second quarter continued as a back and forth affair, as the Wolverines were unable to build upon their lead. Both teams were shooting 57 percent from the floor with four minutes left in the quarter. With Michigan (19-13) leading by only one, coach Kim Barnes Arico called a timeout, and the Wolverines came out firing as Thompson drilled another attempt from behind the arc. The Bison (25-8) went on a run to earn a lead, but it lasted for less than one minute, as the Wolverines took charge again, taking a 44-42 lead into halftime.
“I thought that eventually, with our depth, we could wear them down and really try to push in transition and try to score,” Barnes Arico said. “They did a really great job scoring with us early on, and I think as the game continued, we were able to wear them down.”
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty became the first player in program history to score more than 700 points in a season with her first basket of the game, but her first basket was her only made attempt of the half. Flaherty shot 1-for-5 in the first 20 minutes, well off pace of her 22.5 point per game average.
Flaherty’s first shot attempt in the third quarter rimmed out as well, but her next attempt went through the nylon, giving Michigan an eight point lead. Shortly after, Thome went on another hot streak, tallying six straight points to put the Wolverines ahead by nine.
“When (Thome) got back in and we made our run in the fourth quarter, we were able to get her touches on the ball,” Barnes Arico said. “When she was able to get touches, things started to open up for everyone else. When she wasn’t in the game, people could really key on Katelynn.”
At one point in the game, Flaherty missed four straight shots, including an airballed three, but she finally scored on her fifth attempt to bring her to 3-of-12 shooting. Ristovski picked up the load in the third quarter, and her six points came at crucial times with the shot clock winding down. With Ristovski’s help, Michigan was up, 62-58, going into the fourth quarter.
Flaherty started the fourth quarter off with a 3-pointer, possibly lifting her and the rest of her team’s confidence to increase its slim lead. Flaherty’s next behind-the-arc dagger pushed the Wolverine lead to double digits with just over six minutes left in regulation.
Michigan didn’t let up from there, not allowing the Bison to come back in the game any closer. The Wolverines left the floor with the crowd on its feet, riding high on confidence to advance to the next round knowing that if even Flaherty has an off day, the rest of the team is more than capable of scoring in her absence.
“Today, we really executed down the stretch, we got the ball in the right people’s hands to take the right shots down the stretch,” Barnes Arico said. “Then we got key stops when we needed to get stops. We took steps in the right direction today.”