The Michigan women’s basketball team is letting the good times roll.
The sixteenth-ranked Wolverines (8-2 Big Ten, 19-4 overall), added onto what is now a six-game winning streak on Saturday, beating Northwestern (2-7, 9-14), 80-59. They took their first lead two minutes into the game and never gave it up.
Junior center Hallie Thome was the early catalyst, as Michigan spent the first half feeding her in the post. She started the game with two straight hook shots and didn’t slow down. The Wolverines built up a 21-9 first quarter lead through a cascade of spin moves, drop steps and hook shots, all from Thome.
By the end of the first half, Thome’s tally was up to 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, more than she totaled in four of her last five games. The rest of the Wolverines combined for 18 in the same span.
“Her footwork was so outstanding and we were able to get her the ball,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told MGoBlueTV. “And that’s something we talked about before the game — we need to establish her.”
As Thome dominated, however, the Wildcats managed to stay in the game. A Bryana Hopkins floater at the first quarter’s buzzer kept the margin at a manageable 13 and Northwestern cut it to 10 midway through the second.
From there, it was a familiar formula: an entry pass, a post-up, a left-handed hook shot, two more points. Though Thome piled up seven more points late in the half doing just that, the Wildcats stayed within reach by limiting everybody else. Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty was the Wolverines’ second-leading scorer with seven points in the first 20 minutes, and even that was on 3-of-11 shooting.
In the second half, that changed. Northwestern started to double-team Thome, but the rest of the offense subsequently revved up.
“When (Thome’s) in one-on-ones, she can score every single time and I think that’s what changed things for us in the second half, cause they really had to double her,” Barnes Arico said. “… And then that opened things for our guards on the outside.”
Junior guard Nicole Munger and Flaherty began to heat up almost immediately. The former found the latter to set up a transition layup early in the third. A few possessions later, Flaherty hit a trademark 3-pointer from well beyond the arc. What had been a nine-point lead quickly turned to 15.
By the end of the third, Michigan led 63-47, having scored two more points than the Wildcats averaged per game coming into Sunday. Needless to say, a comeback wasn’t in order.
After struggling throughout the first half, Flaherty finished with a typical 27 points and six assists, hitting five-of-seven triples and kickstarting the Wolverines’ transition attack. This was the third time in her last four games she finished with over 25.
In addition to keeping the winning streak going and staying a game behind No. 14 Maryland in the Big Ten loss column, the victory also marked Kim Barnes Arico’s 400th as Michigan’s head coach. In the locker room, the Wolverines greeted her with cardboard cutouts spelling out the milestone, as well as one of her own face.
“It just means I’m getting old,” joked Barnes Arico. “I think that’s what it means. But it’s nice that 300 and 400 weren’t that far away.”