After losing its second consecutive game against UCLA last weekend, the Michigan women’s basketball team had all of finals week to prepare for its test against Miami (Ohio).
When the Wolverines (8-2) took the court Saturday, it took all of 1:20 for them to jump out to a 7-0 lead and never look back on their way to a 97-55 victory over the RedHawks (5-4).
For Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico, the fast start was all she needed to see to give her team a passing grade on their response to the recent losses.
“Coming off of two losses and games where we only had a game in a week it feels we haven’t had a win in a long time,” Barnes Arico said. “So we were really excited to get the opportunity to get out there and potentially come away with a win today, and we were going to do it and jump on it right away.”
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty led all Michigan scorers with 25 points, continuing to boost her average of 20.1 points per game, which was good for third in the Big Ten entering Saturday.
Freshman guard Nicole Munger was able to follow up a 15-point performance against the Bruins last week and tie her career high with 19 points while shooting 64 percent from the field.
“Nicole has a great ability to score, and we have done a great job as a team of finding her in transition to score,” Barnes Arico said. “I think it really helps our team and really helps Katelynn and Sierra if we have another guard with that consistent stroke on the outside.”
While Flaherty led all scorers, she had plenty of outlets to look for when the Miami defense tried to stop her. The Wolverines had 10 players get minutes in the first half, and all of them had scored by the end of the first 20 minutes.
“We wanted to get back to winning in transition,” Flaherty said. “It was easier to score today, so I think it really gives our confidence a boost.”
With everyone contributing, Michigan was able to put together one of its best passing performances of the season. Of the 38 baskets the Wolverines made, 22 of them were assisted. Junior guard Siera Thompson statistically was the most unselfish, earning five assists while also scoring five points and grabbing four rebounds.
“We talk about our assists all the time and making the extra pass,” Barnes Arico said. “The more that you can do that, the better shot you’ll get. If you can make the extra pass and find that open person, our shooting percentage will be way higher, and I think you can see that by what we’re shooting for the year.”
After being replaced in the starting lineup for the first time all season last week against UCLA, senior guard Madison Ristovski returned to the starting five, replacing junior guard Danielle Williams. Ristovski scored just eight points but was passing the ball more effectively than she has in recent games.
The Wolverines ended the afternoon scoring their second-highest scoring tally all season and shooting 58 percent from the field. Michigan’s defensive performance against the RedHawks was also an improvement over the past few games, as the Wolverines won the turnover battle, 24-9.
Saturday was the Wolverines’ final non-conference home game and was the type of outing Barnes Arico needed to see from her team. The win over Miami will be a confidence boost following the consecutive defeats, something a young Michigan squad needs heading into the competitive Big Ten conference season.