Don’t expect anything too different when the Michigan women’s basketball team tips off its play in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis.
As Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said Monday morning, the Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 18-12 overall) will stick to what they know best: getting the ball to sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty in transition each chance they get.
“Transition is going to be key for us, as well as being able to take advantage of Katelynn’s matchup,” Barnes Arico said.
The Wolverines — the No. 8 seed in the bracket — begin tournament play against No. 9 seed Iowa, a team with which they split two regular-season matchups.
Flaherty led Michigan’s offense the few times it played Iowa this season, scoring 55 points over two games. The Wolverines found her consistently open in the first game against the Hawkeyes (8-10, 18-12), when they came back from a 17-point deficit to win at home in Ann Arbor.
Michigan fell by 16 on the road in the second meeting, but Barnes Arico noted that where her team struggled most in that loss was rebounding, something Flaherty isn’t highly involved with.
Relying on Flaherty and freshman center Hallie Thome, who both earned All-Big Ten honors this week, has been the game plan all season, and the team sees no reason to change that against the Hawkeyes.
“We’re really trying to go to our strengths, and make sure that Hallie and Katelynn get touches,” Barnes Arico said. “And hopefully everybody is able to step up and perform as well.”
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder called Flaherty an “amazing shooter and amazing scorer” this week, recognizing that stopping her from getting open looks is where the team has to buckle down defensively.
The Hawkeyes’ backcourt handles that responsibility. Guards Ally Disterhoft and Tania Davis will carry that burden. Davis, a freshman point guard, continues to improve as she gains experience.
Keeping Flaherty’s scoring to a minimum, though, will be one of Davis’s toughest tests of the tournament, no matter how far the Hawkeyes advance.
Flaherty, who boasts the ninth-highest scoring average in the country at 22.3 points per game, is expected to put up high numbers, but another deciding factor in the game will be under the basket.
Thome, a 6-foot-5 freshman and the Wolverines’ second-leading scorer, has had an efficient season, shooting 64.2 from the field, the third-highest in the nation.
The freshman is making an inside impact for a guard-heavy team, but it is going to be important for her to stay out of foul trouble in this tournament, especially with Iowa’s size.
Barnes Arico mentioned that those scenarios — staying out of foul trouble and trying to make an impact on the defensive end without fouling — are what the Wolverines have been breaking down this week leading up to the tournament.