With 36 points on Thursday, senior guard Katelynn Flaherty led the team in scoring — again. That’s the way it always is.
But center Hallie Thome wasn’t too bad herself in the No. 21 Michigan women’s basketball team’s 84-63 victory over Northwestern. The junior finished with 25 points, the second most in the game.
With a teammate in Flaherty — one of the nations most prolific scorers and the program’s all-time leading scorer — Thome’s offensive production can often get overlooked. It’s easy to forget that she’s finished second in scoring for the Wolverines each of the last three seasons and ranks eighth in program history.
This isn’t something that necessarily bothers Thome. She’s confident in her role.
“It never gets frustrating being the second scorer — not at all,” Thome said. “When you have a person like Katelynn Flaherty on your team, you get her the ball.”
In the shadow of Flaherty, Thome’s notoriety as a scorer is certainly repressed. In fact, she’s not just adequate offensively, but one of the biggest threats in the Big Ten. With 16.9 points per game, Thome ranks 10th in the conference in scoring.
What makes Thome special isn’t just that she scores, but how she does it. Thome shoots an efficient 63.1 percent from the field — second-best in the Big Ten. For comparison, Michigan’s second best player from the floor, Kayla Robbins, shoots 48.6 percent.
That was on full display against the Wildcats, as Thome finished 8-for-12 from the field. But Thome refuses to take all the credit for her success.
“I think (my efficiency) is all my teammates,” Thome said. “It’s a testimony to my teammates to put me in position to score. My coaches and teammates have instilled confidence in me, so whenever I get the ball I feel like I have an opportunity to score.”
So how is Thome such an efficient player? She has impeccable shot selections, rarely forcing things. The 6-foot-5 center doesn’t have to. Thome consistently positions herself in down low, using her height advantage to get high-percentage shots.
“She’s really the total package,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She has great size. She has soft hands, she catches everything that comes her way. Her footwork is so good (that) her moves around the basket are tough to stop. She showed that tonight.”
Her height gives defenders trouble, resulting in Thome getting fouled often. As a result, she gets to the free throw line at a high rate. After going 8-for-9 on Thursday, she has the second most attempts on the team at a 113, shooting 77 percent from the line. But even from the foul line, Thome pales in comparison to Flaherty, who has attempted and made more free throws on the season (105 for 120).
Thome’s time is coming, however.
With Flaherty graduating after the season, Thome naturally becomes the number one scoring option for the Wolverines. And Michigan will need her to fill the void that Flaherty leaves.
While Thome won’t replicate the play or offensive output of the 5-foot-7 Flaherty, she does possess the talent to become the focal point of the offense. Still, she will need to diversify her game. This would include further developing a mid-range shot, thus allowing the Wolverines to stretch the floor.
Thursday night may have foreshadowed a transformation to come, as Thome hit the first 3-pointer of her career. The shot came in the fourth quarter, as the shot clock expired during a 6-0 Northwestern run. The shot will certainly make Thome’s grandpa happy, who calls her after every game and urges her to shoot it from behind the arc.
“It was a critical shot,” Barnes Arico said. “I think we were up eight, and that put us up 11. Hallie has such tremendous touch. She is a really good shooter. Her grandpa, every time he sees me, tells me how many threes she should be taking. So when we do our practice shooting drills, I’m like, ‘Can you make these so we can make grandpa proud?’ ”
While Flaherty might get the attention, Michigan would undoubtedly be a shell of itself without Thome.