Though the game was supposed to be a walk in the park, the Michigan women’s basketball team transformed it into a leisurely stroll on the beach — and made it into its top-three scoring game of all time.
The Wolverines pounded Howard, 109-41, in the teams’ first-ever meeting Friday at Crisler Center. It was just the 15th time in program history that Michigan has reached the triple-digit milestone — with the most recent being last weekend’s matchup with Niagara. This is the first time in school history that the team has gone three games in a row beating the century mark.
And a large chunk of that, expectedly, came from Katelynn Flaherty.
Before the first half was up, the junior guard tied her career high in assists at six. Flaherty went on to set her new record with a total of seven.
“For (Flaherty) to do that, it’s just like a typical day for her,” sophomore center Hallie Thome said. “She’s one of the most outstanding shooters we have and in the NCAA.”
Added Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico: “She’s an incredible scorer. But when she finishes the night with (those statistics), she’s doing other things to help our team be successful. I think us having 32 assists on the night shows our ability to be unselfish and our ability to make that extra pass and score the basketball.”
Barnes Arico chose to keep her starting lineup from the past two games: Thome, Flaherty, junior forward Jillian Dunston senior guards Siera Thompson and Danielle Williams.
The Bison started off with a quick 6-0 lead within the first minute — surprising the Wolverines, who have never trailed that much this season. But Flaherty, in the second minute of play, bumped the Wolverines up by three, quickly followed by another 3-pointer from Williams.
Thome pointed out that going forward it will be tougher to erase that deficit if the team trails that early, and by that margin, when facing future competition. To its credit, Michigan never let Howard take the lead again — or score another point in the first quarter. The Wolverines went on a 36-0 run for a final tally of 36-6.
The second quarter passed in much the same manner. By the end of the half, Flaherty led with 17 points, and Gondzrezick and Thome followed her with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Michigan extended its run to 52-0 in the second quarter, but the streak broke with a pair of mid-range shots from the Bison around the four-minute mark. Barnes Arico said she didn’t even notice the streak, though, and only recognized the efficient play.
“I think it’s just exciting to see that we have a lot of people contributing to our (100-point streaks), and that’s exciting,” Thome said. “Any night can be anyone’s game.”
The Wolverines’ defense contributed to the standout performance with 16 steals for the night.
Thome set the mark with three turnovers. Dunston also was a force on the field and set the bar for rebounds, with a total of 13.
Barnes Arico also pointed out the all-around flexibility that sophomore guards Boogie Brozoski and Nicole Munger give the team. Combined, the two dished out 11 assists.
Freshmen were a large part of the depth on the team that Barnes Arico noted. Notably, it was freshman Kayla Robbins who made the breakaway layup to push the Wolverines over the 99-point mark. It was guard KeAsja Peace who put Friday’s performance in a tie for the third-highest scoring game in program history. And it was guard Akenrieh Johnson who pushed the game over that mark.
Gondrezick finished the game with 22 points and went 5-for-7 on 3-pointers, making her teammates notice the similarities between her and Flaherty.
“(Gondrezick) is hitting it lights out too,” Thome said. “Her and (Flaherty) on the court is something you just can’t mess with.”
Despite all the milestones in the game, Barnes Arico is still striving to tweak her team to get ready for heavier competition.
“Coaches are always pessimistic by nature,” Barnes Arico said. “I tell them to just take us on a run to the national championship and keep on taking those shots. I think our kids spend a lot of time in the gym and make an effort to be great shooters.
“It’s been really positive, but it’s important for us as coaches to keep everyone grounded. It was fun, let’s enjoy the moment, but tomorrow we get back to work.”