Hot shooting from Flaherty, Thompson propels Wolverines past Toledo

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By Max Bultman, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 23, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio — After an unceremonious WNIT opener that saw the Michigan women’s basketball team shoot a combined 6-for-18 from the field in a win over Cleveland State, freshman guard Katelynn Flaherty and sophomore guard Siera Thompson got to work.

They, along with the other Wolverine guards, went in to take extra shots on their day off Friday with assistant coach Megan Duffy.

And in the Wolverines’ 74-58 win over Toledo at Savage Arena on Friday, it showed, as the two combined to shoot an almost nonsensical 17-for-23 from the floor, lifting Michigan into the tournament’s third round.

“My last game, I think I shot 3-for-11,” Flaherty said. “Getting the ball back in our hands when we’re not having a good shooting day really gives us confidence.”

Neither Thompson nor Flaherty started Monday for the Wolverines, but they made the difference in a hostile environment. Without Thompson and Flaherty’s astounding 74-percent shooting, the Wolverines’ line would have been 9-for-30.

And while both players are undoubtedly deep threats every night, Monday’s outburst was still somewhat unexpected. While Flaherty started the season as one of the team’s premier shooters, she has struggled to get her shot going in her last three games.

“Katelynn is funny — she’s still such a youngster that so much of her game is still predicated on the first shot, or the second shot,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “If she’s 0-for-1 or 0-for-2 I start to get nervous, because I think she hesitates instead of taking threes. But tonight she got the first one to fall, and then her confidence was flowing.”

But Flaherty didn’t just get the first one to fall Monday. She got the first eight. In fact, she didn’t miss a shot until there was just 11:29 remaining, and that was on a blocked layup by Toledo’s Sophie Reecher.

She racked up 25 points from just about everywhere on the court, mostly on 3-pointers and a series of long 2s, neither of which the Rockets could do anything about.

Even when they closed out on her, Flaherty’s release was still too quick.

“We just couldn’t get a hand her face fast enough,” lamented Toledo coach Tricia Cullop.

Added Thompson: “(Flaherty) was great tonight. I’ve seen her like that a lot of times, but she was very, very good tonight.”

Even if the Rockets had found an answer for Flaherty, Thompson might have been able to carry Michigan herself. She shot a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, finishing with 20 points.

She continuously found ways to get open and make Toledo pay for the holes in its defense.

“To (Thompson)’s credit, she’s been out of the starting lineup the last two games, and that’s probably the only time in career she’s been out of the starting lineup,” Barnes Arico said. “She responded tonight, and that was awesome to see.”

For one stretch in the second half, Flaherty and Thompson were the Wolverines’ entire offense. After Flaherty hit a 3-pointer to put Michigan up 46-30 with 15:16 to play, no player not named Thompson or Flaherty scored for the Wolverines until senior forward Nicole Elmblad hit a free throw with 2:46 remaining.

Luckily for Michigan, that was still more than enough scoring. They totaled 17 points in that span, more than enough to stave off a brief push from Toledo.

“They just kind of lost us with all our screens,” Flaherty said. “I know my team needs me to shoot — it’s one of the best things I do.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Siera Thompson had 16 points. She had 20.