With 4:45 remaining in the first quarter, Ohio State had possession of the ball near half court. As the Buckeyes passed back and forth, they lost control of the ball and it rolled over to the other side of the court. Several players broke into an all-out sprint in an attempt to gain possession, but it was junior center Hallie Thome who slid her six-foot-five body across the floor to secure the ball.
The crowd of 8,313 erupted.
Though Ohio State would ultimately prevail in overtime, Thome proved to be a key player for the Michigan women’s basketball team in Sunday’s game, totaling a team-high 27 points.
“I think we need to realize that we’re right there,” said Thome. “Now we need to keep improving and take it day by day … it’s a loss but a loss is time for learning.”
Despite Buckeye ball pressure that forced Thome and the Wolverines into numerous traveling violations, Thome used footwork to create clean shots around the hoop.
“She’s got outstanding footwork, she’s a really skilled post,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I think that they were bumping her a little bit and they were calling a ton of travels against us, really more in the first half than we had all year long. And I think part of that was their physicality and we had to adjust to that.
“I thought we settled down as a team and did a better job in the second half of not traveling with the basketball. And she specifically really settled down and just used her quickness and her footwork to be aggressive.”
Senior point guard Katelyn Flaherty had several assists to Thome during the game, making them a notable and highly-guarded duo.
“It’s better when she’s on my side because they can’t help down so it’s easier to get into the post,” Thome said. “They kind of have to pick and choose, do they want a three or do they want a two? So being able to play with a player like this, who everyone in the country respects, is definitely so nice.”
Ohio State’s one-on-one defense provided Thome an advantage not afforded by some other teams, who tend to focus more attention on Thome.
“She’s coming off of a real good game and we talked about trying to establish her early and get her the ball early and we were able to do that,” Barnes Arico said. “I think one of her advantages was that they left in her in a one-on-one and a lot of times teams try to double her.”
But Thome was good for more than just scoring, proving herself as a defensive standout Sunday. Early in the second quarter, Thome blocked a shot that put the fans on their feet. And in a matchup with Stephanie Mavunga, one of the Buckeyes’ best players, she stood her ground.
“She really attacked her,” Barnes Arico said. “She definitely won the battle tonight.”