The Wolverines’ undefeated streak at Crisler Center this season is still intact.
The perfect mark at home is something Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico was clearly excited about.
“Woo-hoo,” Barnes Arico exclaimed with a smile on her face. “We love playing here, we love playing at home. We’re proud. Our fan base has increased through the years. Our job is to protect the block ‘M’, that’s our responsibility. We want to get as many wins as we can at home, it definitely makes a difference.”
On Sunday, Michigan’s (4-1 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) latest opportunity to defend Crisler Center came against Minnesota (1-4, 10-8). It marked this season’s only matchup between the two, and the Wolverines claimed their victory handily, defeating the Golden Gophers, 84-69.
Hallie Thome and Katelynn Flaherty acted as Michigan’s dynamic duo. The sophomore center and junior guard, respectively, each put up eight points by the end of the first quarter, helping the Wolverines earn an early 25-16 lead.
Though Michigan was only narrowly ahead of Minnesota halfway through the first quarter, the Wolverines began to widen the gap with the help of junior guard Jillian Dunston and senior guard Siera Thompson, who had two and three assists, respectively.
Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick also helped to build the lead, as she wasn’t far behind Thome and Flaherty with five points at the end of the first quarter.
Roughly four minutes into the second quarter, the Wolverines finally broke the game open. Flaherty hit her third 3-pointer of the game, kickstarting a 12-point run that forced the Golden Gophers to call a timeout.
By the end of the half, Michigan led by 25 points. Minnesota, on the other hand, had been held to just six points in the second quarter and notched just 22 total points by halftime. The Wolverines’ lead proved too difficult to overcome, as the Golden Gophers trailed by 20 or more points for the remainder of the game.
Despite getting into foul trouble, Thompson still managed to post 12 points and 7 assists.
“(Foul trouble) is something I try hard not to get frustrated with,” Thompson said. “It’s hard not to. Just feeling out the refs and figuring out how aggressive I can play, I have to adjust. That was my fault, figuring out how aggressive I need to be on defense.”
With Thompson playing limited minutes, Flaherty and Thome continued to strike as a pair, finishing with 14 and 16 points each in the second and third quarters, respectively.
Thome completed her fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
“She’s playing with some confidence,” Barnes Arico said. “I think that’s really important. … Her teammates, us coaches, we just have such great confidence in her game. She’s incredible, she has the best hands of any post (player) I’ve seen.
“I think we’re doing a better job as a team of finding her and letting her go to work because we believe she can score against anyone inside.”
By the end of the game, four Wolverines — Flaherty, Thome, Gondrezick and Thompson — had hit double digits.
“I think we shared the ball really well, which really, ultimately, led to us scoring in double figures,” Flaherty said. “In the first half we only had three turnovers, which is really our goal. … Today, we really clicked on all cylinders. I think if we can continue doing that throughout the Big Ten season, we’ll be really successful.”
As expected, Michigan’s greatest competition came from Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner, who scored 38 of Golden Gophers’ 69 points. But even Wagner’s valiant effort wasn’t enough to break the Wolverines’ perfect record at home.