Wolverines scramble for last-minute comeback

Sunday, February 5, 2017 - 6:55pm

Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick sank two late free throws to help Michigan pull out the victory.

Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick sank two late free throws to help Michigan pull out the victory. Buy this photo
Max Kuang/Daily

 

With only one minute left on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Michigan women’s basketball team (8-2 Big Ten, 19-5 overall) trailed Iowa, 68-65. The Wolverines hadn’t led since the end of the first quarter, and had gone down by as much as 15 points over the course of the game.

But the energy in Crisler Center was pulsing, and the crowd was deafening. As freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick stepped up to the free-throw line, she felt the pressure of the intense game and the chance to redeem herself after missing three of her last six attempts at the line.

This time, she sunk both tries.

“I said, ‘If I miss another free throw’ ... I told (senior guard Siera Thompson) ‘If I get the ball, come get it from me,’ ” Gondrezick said. “I think we just had a tough day at the line, but we were able to convert when it mattered.”

The score was now 68-67, and Michigan was close to solidifying what once seemed an unlikely victory. But 58 seconds remained, and coming within one point of a victory was not enough.

Seconds later, Gondrezick snagged a poorly-handled Iowa ball and bolted down the court, passing it forward to an open Katelynn Flaherty. The junior guard finished the layup at the 47-second mark. The Wolverines led for the first time in over 30 minutes, but their lead was still tremulous.

The Hawkeyes (5-5, 14-9) were not done battling. Iowa passed around the offensive zone, carefully setting up a 3-point attempt that just missed. But it still managed a hard-fought layup, swinging the lead back in favor of the Hawkeyes.

With just 35 seconds left on the clock, the Wolverines needed to overcome their scoring struggles — they scored just 44.1 percent from the floor all game  — to keep their home record immaculate. A timeout was called, and Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico gave her team a play to run — but things turned out differently on the court.

“We would have had (sophomore forward Hallie Thome shoot) first, Katelynn second, Kysre third,” Barnes Arico said. “So (sophomore guard Nicole Munger) was actually a screener in that play. But she had the best matchup.”

Munger cut to the outside from beyond the 3-point line, got her shoulder in front of the defender and drove down the baseline, burying a layup.

“That was just the move that she made to the basket,” Gondrezick said. “It’s a move that she makes in practice every day, and it showed in the game. So we trusted her.”

But there were still 20 seconds on the clock, and the ball was in Iowa’s possession. Once again, the Hawkeyes missed a 3-point attempt, and there to snatch the rebound was Munger, who got fouled in the process.

Despite missing her free throw attempts, the ball ended up back in the Wolverines’ hands, as Thompson grabbed the ball off of Munger’s second attempt and was promptly fouled as well. With just six seconds left, she scored one of two attempts, earning Michigan’s final point for its 72-70 win.

The seconds that remained could have been enough time for Iowa to sink a 3-pointer, but Barnes Arico still had a few tricks up her sleeve.

“We had so many fouls to give that we were trying to foul in the back court and stop the play,” Barnes Arico said.

The Wolverines gave three of their four remaining fouls in the last three seconds of the game, slowing things down and killing off the clock so the Hawkeyes had no chance to reclaim the lead. As the buzzer sounded, both the team and the crowd exploded with cheers to celebrate Michigan’s comeback victory.

“Last year we didn’t come out on the winning side of these games,” Barnes Arico said. “We had to go all the way down to the wire to get our lead and to win the game, and I think it took everything we had.”

Added Gondrezick: “That’s our motto. By any means, we just have to find a way to win.”