This game was always going to be memorable. For the first time, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico faced off against her old team — a team that she had led to 176 wins over 10 years and exited as the winningest coach in program history.
The Wolverines hosted St. John’s at Crisler Center for the first time in Barnes Arico’s tenure, and her team did not let her down, beating St. John’s, 60-40.
“I thought it was incredible,” Barnes Arico said. “I’ve been pretty sick about it for the past few days. It’s tough. I think more from the outside noises of my family wanted to fly in, my uncle coming in, seeing some people I haven’t seen in a long time.
“There’s a lot of memories there, which stir up a lot of things. Very positive memories. St. John’s gave me my first opportunity at the Division I level so I’m always loyal to them.”
During the contest, senior guard Siera Thompson became the program leader in games played with a total of 138. She finished with eight points, three assists and two steals.
The game started off with a surprise, however. Instead of walking out with the starting five, freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick missed Thursday’s game and will take a leave of absence for personal reasons. In her place, senior guard Danielle Williams earned the start, but Gondrezick’s absence was noticeable. The team did not comment when she’ll be returning.
The Wolverines initially struggled from the field, shooting 0-for-7 in the first four minutes of gameplay and only managing a pair of free throws from junior guard Katelynn Flaherty. St. John’s, though, managed just five points during that timeframe.
The best play of the second quarter was a layup by Munger with 4:53 left to go. A huddle of Red Storm and Wolverines were beneath the basket, and, from the corner, Munger rushed into the paint and stole the ball. The two-point boost brought Michigan within one point, the closest it had been all game. Then, Williams pushed Michigan over the edge with a layup to give the Wolverines their first lead.
“I think (a different starting lineup) made others just step up,” Thome said. “Danielle was able to do her usual great job on defense and take some really good charges and help the momentum change and help get us going.”
The first half ended, 30-29, with Flaherty making three free throws to push her team ahead.
“I’m kind of mental with my free throws,” Flaherty said. “I was just hoping I could end the half by hitting those three and really helping our team get back our momentum. So I think that was the best part of it.”
The second half was a completely different story. Michigan held St. John’s to just 10 points on 5-for-26 shooting. The Wolverines also managed to foul out two of the Red Storm’s most prominent performers.
To fill Gondrezick’s place, Michigan needed to go deeper into the bench, meaning freshman guard Kayla Robbins stood out. She finished with a game-high seven rebounds.
“I don’t know if it shows up in the box score in points,” Barnes Arico said. “But she was able to draw some key, key fouls on their kids, and actually the fifth foul on their best player and get them out of the game. So sometimes people don’t recognize and see that, but for us that was critical.”
Barnes Arico had prepared for the game knowing St. John’s kept their opponents to around the 60-point mark — which Michigan hit squarely — and this game was no different. For a team that hit the century mark three times in a row at the beginning of the season and regularly reaches 80, that was an anomaly.
“We definitely just had to execute well and take advantage of the shots, because we knew we weren’t going to have many,” Thome said. “We really just had to make sure we had stops on defense down on the end, because if it’s going to be a low-scoring game, we can’t have it being too close.”
At the end of the game, Barnes Arico still shook the hand of her former assistant coach — now St. John’s head coach Joe Tartamella. And she did so victoriously.