Wolverines get revenge against Buckeyes

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 10:48pm

The Michigan women's basketball team avenged their previous loss to Ohio State by beating Buckeyes on Tuesday.

The Michigan women's basketball team avenged their previous loss to Ohio State by beating Buckeyes on Tuesday. Buy this photo
Ceren B Dag/Daily

 

It didn’t make any sense — at least, not at first.

With under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, junior shooting guard Nicole Munger dribbled the ball up court, running point. Why was she suddenly playing the new position? It would soon be clear.

While Munger handled the ball, the team’s usual point guard — senior Katelynn Flaherty — managed to sneak around the Buckeyes’ defense, and a couple passes later she drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. This clever play created the diversion Flaherty needed to snag an open look, and the Wolverines grabbed hold of the lead, 56-54.

They never let go.

That play was a major tipping point, as the No. 19 Michigan women’s basketball team (5-2 Big Ten, 16-4 conference) upset No. 8 Ohio State (5-1, 16-3) in Columbus on Tuesday night, 84-75.

The first half was a foul frenzy. Junior center Hallie Thome — Michigan’s go-to player in the post — got two fouls within the opening quarter. This restrained the Wolverines’ abilities down low, and the Buckeyes started to dominate the paint, led by forward Stephanie Mavunga.

Thome didn’t let her foul troubles stop her, though, and she stepped up big time.

With four fouls in the fourth quarter, Thome closely guarded Mavunga in the low post with two minutes remaining in the game. With the score at 78-72, a fifth foul would have been troublesome for Michigan. But Thome’s smart positioning helped her draw a charge while Mavunga attempted a spin move, further building momentum for the Wolverines. She also helped Michigan maintain its separation in the final period with some critical baskets, finishing the night with a team-high 27 points.

But Ohio State found foul troubles of their own. Its star guard, Kelsey Mitchell, picked up two fouls early on. That forced her to ease up on the defensive end, and with Mitchell playing conservatively, Munger took advantage — easily finding the lane and scoring on Mitchell. Munger shined for Michigan from the start and wasn’t far behind Thome with a career-high 20 points.

“Nicole played with an extreme amount of confidence,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA. “She was definitely a difference maker.”

Though they excelled in transition, the Wolverines were initially unable to tame the Buckeyes’ multi-threat offense — made up of Mitchell and Mavunga, who finished with 20 and 21 points, respectively. Michigan trailed, 25-21, at the end of the first stanza.

On the first play of the second frame the Wolverines turned the ball over. That became a theme, and Ohio State scored 25 points off turnovers by the end of the game. Five minutes before halftime, though, Mitchell got called for her third foul and headed to the bench. This break helped Michigan stay in the game, as it started to cut into the deficit. But Flaherty struggled to score. She had just three points at the break, and the Buckeyes led, 41-36.

The Wolverines went to work in the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run right off the bat. Flaherty started to look more like herself, draining a corner 3-pointer to ignite the run. A couple minutes later, she tied the game up at 41 with a layup in transition. She finished the night with 21 points, and her success in the second half fueled Michigan.

“We were really scoring the basketball,” Barnes Arico said. “I think that just helped our confidence.”

It was the second contest between the two teams in a span of 10 days. The Wolverines lost a heartbreaking overtime contest in Ann Arbor and had their revenge planned for Tuesday. Despite a tough first half, they succeeded.

“Nine days ago was one of the toughest times,” Barnes Arico said. “We really felt like we let the game slip away, and we really focused on improving a lot of the mistakes we had made at that point.”