DETROIT — Katelynn Flaherty opened the second half with a pullup 3, the type of shot you take when you’re feeling it. When Flaherty released it from a few feet beyond the line, Detroit Mercy’s Brittney Jackson yelled an expletive loud enough to hear from press row. The shot rattled out. The sentiment, however, was warranted.
On the Wolverines’ next possession, the Titans let her shoot again, leaving a crease for Flaherty to drive through. She took it happily, then hit the shot to boot.
“I think it’s just funny,” Flaherty said, smiling. “I hear (expletives) a lot, especially when people are trying to guard me.”
The senior point guard finished the night with 26 points, 22 of them in the first half. Coming into the game, her season average was 23.7. She was 11-of-14 from the field in the first half, dotting her shot chart with runners, elbow pullups, transition layups, and two 3-pointers. In the second, she barely needed to play, having done her work early.
“When I come out and hit my first couple shots, I know I’m pretty much gonna have a good night,” Flaherty said. “I still think that even when I miss, but obviously when you make it, it just gives you a lot of confidence.”
Of course, this wasn’t her first rodeo at Calihan Hall. Flaherty scored 27 points, including two late 3-pointers to tie the game, against Georgia Tech in the WNIT Championship game last year.
“We had shootaround today and it was incredible,” said coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Even pulling up, just the memories flooding back as to what that meant last year. So it was special.”
Unlike other games this year where the focus has been more on distributing the ball from the point guard position, Flaherty was a pure scorer on Monday. She led Michigan with 19 shot attempts despite playing sparingly — just six minutes — in the second half. Not that anyone minded.
“She’s the best scorer in the country, we need her to take 19 shots,” Barnes Arico said. “So if she’s not taking shots, I’m probably on her to take a few more. She needs to shoot the basketball every single time that she’s open, because she doesn’t really miss.”
A month into the season, Flaherty’s adjustment to point guard hasn’t hindered her scoring. Her points per game, field-goal percentage, and 3-point percentage numbers have all gone up this year.
That doesn’t mean things have been seamless, however. At the start of the year, the Wolverines liked going to a side pick-and-roll set with Flaherty and junior center Hallie Thome. They’ve largely ditched that now, and have yet to find go-to plays that involve Flaherty distributing.
“We have a lot of sets, we’ll go back to it I’m sure,” Barnes Arico said. “Offense seemed to be working, I dunno, we scored 80-something points, so maybe we didn’t need it. I always have something in my pocket, though, if we need it.”
Michigan tried some HORNS sets early in the Detroit game. Those could serve that purpose in the future — one of them opened up a corner 3 for junior guard Nicole Munger, though she missed.
The team is still trying to find the right actions and sets for Flaherty as a passer, according to Barnes Arico.
“We put in a lot of new stuff,” she said. “We didn’t have (Flaherty) go through to the side pick-and-roll (against Detroit) in the first half, and we were going to go to it in the second half, but we didn’t need to.
“Everybody watches every film of everything we play, so in games like this, we don’t go through our playbook. We try to keep it as simple as possible. But we put in a bunch of different actions to try and get Hallie and Kate on the same side, because that’s a difficult matchup.”
On nights like Monday, however, scheme ceases to matter. Flaherty could hit from any place, at any time, against anyone. The only defensive solution: don’t let her shoot.
Just ask Brittany Jackson.