Junior guard Kate Thompson came off the bench at the 10-minute mark to give senior guard Carmen Reynolds a break in the game against Utah on Thursday night. The jumper Thompson hit early on looked like her usual one-and-done move of the night. Within seconds, Michigan coach Kevin Borseth motioned to a well-rested Reynolds to check in at the scorer’s table.

The next moment Thompson — the 6-foot-4 lanky standstill shooter — took a hard dribble left, got her defender off balance and then spun right to draw the foul at the basket. The ball left her hands, rattled around the rim and dropped threw the bottom of the net — the crowd went nuts. Borseth called Reynolds back to the bench.

Thompson never looked back.

Showing off her newfound confidence driving to the rim, Thompson earned herself four layups, two three-point plays, and six free-throws for a game high of 17 points and a victory over the Utes.

Her performance was the culmination of hours of hard work, trying to step out of her confined role.

“I’m not the quickest player on the team,” Thompson said. “But in practice I work really hard on driving into the lane. Tonight, (Utah) really keyed on Carmen and our other shooters, and that really opened up the lane for me. I’ve been working hard with (associate head) coach Dawn (Plitzuweit) outside of practice for when my time comes. Tonight it came.”

Though Thompson’s field goals and free throws were effective in putting the Wolverines ahead, her 3-point percentage was less-than desirable.

Thompson went 1-for-5 beyond the arc, but she was not alone. Senior guard Carmen Reynolds went 1-for-7 and junior center Rachel Sheffer went 0-for-4. Michigan finished 3-of-22 from 3-point range.

“It’s rough when the three’s aren’t falling,” Reynolds said. “It says a lot for us to shoot that poorly and still be able to beat a good team like (Utah). Just imagine what it’s going to be like when we start hitting those. When your outside shots aren’t falling you have to get it inside, be aggressive and get to the free-throw line. I think we did that very well this game.”

Another key to the game was free throws. Michigan earned 16 points off of fouls and shot an impressive 84.2 percent from the charity stripe. Senior Courtney Boylan had the second most free throws behind Thompson — she nailed 5-of-6.

In truth, Utah’s wall-like post defenders gave the Wolverines few scoring options aside from drawing fouls. Luckily for Borseth, his team found a way to capitalize. The Wolverines needed those 16 points.

“Rebounds and free throws win games,” Boseth said. “This was especially true in the last three minutes of this game. We hit a couple of free throws down the stretch that kept us going, especially when (Utah) started hitting threes to try to get back in the game.”

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