Thirty-three seconds into the game, junior center Hallie Thome hit a layup to give No. 22 Michigan its first lead – a lead the Wolverines would never surrender.
Following Wednesday’s blowout loss to No. 3 Notre Dame, the Michigan women’s basketball team (5-2 overall) came out blazing in its 86-49 victory over the Blackbirds (3-4). From the start, the Wolverines pressed the action on both sides of the ball. By the end of the first quarter, Michigan already accumulated a 19-point lead.
“It was a great start,” said coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I was really proud of the way we defended and how we moved the ball on offense, and we were able to knock down some shots.”
The second quarter was much of the same – as the Wolverines carried a 45-11 lead into the halftime break. For over 12 minutes of the first half, Michigan held LIU scoreless, while it knocked down 25 points.
The Wolverines found success through their ability to share the basketball. Four players reached double figures in scoring – Thome (19), senior guard Katelynn Flaherty (16), junior guard Nicole Munger (16) and freshman guard Deja Church (12) – and Michigan recorded a season-high 23 assists. Forward Jillian Dunston led the way with eight on her own, a career high for the senior.
“We’ve been trying to figure out a way to utilize Jillian best,” Barnes Arico said. “The game has really slowed down for her. She’s playing as an experienced player. She’s a great student (of the game), one of the best that we have. When she screens and she opens, she is available to make those extra passes.”
Not only were the Wolverines distributing the rock, but they were capitalizing on their shots. Michigan shot a season-high 52.3 percent from the floor. Its most efficient players, Church and Thome, shot a combined 13-of-16 from the field. Munger wasn’t far behind, as the sharp shooter seemed to finally find her stroke, making 5-of-7 from behind the arc.
“It was great to see her knock down shots,” Barnes Arico said. “But even diving on the floor for a loose ball when we were up 30, it just speaks volumes to the kind of player she is.”
The star players weren’t the only ones contributing on Saturday, though. The lopsided game allowed all 11 Wolverines to enter the game, and Michigan’s bench racked up 24 points.
The blowout also allowed the Wolverines’ starters to get some rest, which may prove crucial for Michigan with a quick turnaround against Detroit Mercy on Monday.