Something felt a bit off about Katelynn Flaherty’s shot throughout the first couple games of the Michigan women’s basketball team’s season, so the sophomore guard put in a few more reps on the Crisler Center hardwood, sinking baskets late into the night.
She needed every extra minute she could get in front of the basket. Ten days ago against Detroit, Flaherty had her weakest performance of the season with a scoreless second half and four total fouls. After that win, though, senior guard Madison Ristovski said she believed Flaherty would fall back in line.
Four days later, Flaherty led the team with 19 points against Xavier. And four days after that, with more practice under her belt and a few extra nights of shooting, the upward trend continued in the Wolverines’ 119-61 victory over South Carolina Upstate.
That turnaround made quite a statement, too, as Flaherty etched her name in the program’s record book with a career-high 34 points.
With 65-percent shooting, Flaherty joined seven other players in the program’s history to have scored at least 34 points in a single game — including former guard Shannon Smith, who scored 36 points against Ohio State last season.
Despite small turbulence to start the season, the stat sheet will show that Flaherty has recuperated. For her, it has been a mental game that has progressed substantially.
“She’s an incredible player,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “(But) she’s kinda been disappointed in the first couple games that her shot hadn’t been falling the way that she’d been working on it.”
Against the Spartans, her shots did fall the way she wanted, but not initially. She started the game by missing three straight 3-pointers and a jumper before drawing a foul, stepping to the line and sinking two free throws. After that, Flaherty was unstoppable with the finesse of her dribbling and quick transitions on the fast break.
“I think that (Detroit) was a good game for me to go through,” Flaherty said. “It changed my whole mentality coming into games going forward. Especially going 0-for-4 in the beginning (of Monday’s game), it doesn’t faze me. I just keep shooting.”
And Flaherty kept shooting Monday. It didn’t seem like she would miss.
It seemed that Flaherty just needed to see the swish of the ball through the basket — even if it was just a free throw. In the end, it’s about confidence with Flaherty, and one basket could be the tipping point for a phenomenal night.
“Maybe the free throws kinda calmed her down a bit, and she didn’t miss after that,” Barnes Arico said. “Every time she shoots it, I think it’s going in. I think probably everybody on our bench thinks it’s going in. When she misses, we’re surprised that she misses it.”
Flaherty missed just seven of 20 shots, but Barnes Arico thought her four assists were her most impressive stat line. Flaherty’s distribution set up freshman guard Boogie Brozoski for a career-high 16-point night.
In turn, Brozoski had five assists, the most important one coming with 1:23 left in the game. Ten seconds after subbing in, redshirt senior guard Halle Wangler got wide open at the top of the key and scored a long jumper off a pass from Brozoski.
Wangler’s first career basket made the bench uproar in excitement, sending players and coaches jumping on their feet. Twenty-one seconds later, she added her first career rebound as well. Without Brozoski, Wangler wouldn’t have had that shining moment. Without Flaherty, there’s no telling if Brozoski would’ve produced similar results.
Ultimately, Flaherty’s career night paid dividends for the performance of her other teammates.
“She was making extra passes, and she wasn’t forcing her shot,” Barnes Arico said. “I was really happy with the way she moved the ball.”
Barnes Arico said she didn’t know how many points Flaherty had when she subbed out in the final six minutes, nearing 40 points. The fourth-year coach said Flaherty would likely play all 40 minutes of a game if she could, but Flaherty admitted that it wouldn’t be to score more points.
“I just want to do what’s best for my team, and just help my team win in whichever way I can,” Flaherty said. “I think when (I) have high scoring games, I also want to work on other parts of my game, whether it’s sharing the ball, getting the ball in other people’s hands or working on defense.”
No matter how Flaherty spends every minute on the floor, though, she needs to do one thing. Just keep shooting, and the rest will fall in place.