Returning home was exactly what the Michigan women’s basketball team needed.
After spending three weeks playing games away from Ann Arbor and traveling over 10,000 miles, the Wolverines defeated Ohio, 69-46, and Vermont, 78-56, last week at Crisler Center.
“We learned that we are road warriors,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on WTKA on Tuesday. “This might have been the toughest non-conference schedule that we’ve had. The travel, the wear and tear and being away from the classroom. We have witnessed in the last week, or week and a half, how that took a little bit of a toll on everyone.”
Michigan is clearly enjoying its time at home, and the Wolverines will have the benefit of playing there once more before the Big Ten season begins. They take on American University on Thursday.
On paper, the Eagles (3-7) don’t appear intimidating. They are currently ranked 235th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and score just 61.3 points per game. In contrast, Michigan is ranked 26th and averages 80.9 points per game.
Despite its uninspiring statistics, American does have two players the Wolverines will need to prepare for. Forward Cecily Carl is averaging 11.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, and guard Emily Kinneston is averaging 10.8 points and 4.7 boards.
Michigan, though, doesn’t need numbers to know that it can’t afford to overlook opponents that appear overmatched. Last Thursday, the Wolverines found themselves in a 13-13 tie with Vermont — who was 303rd in the RPI — in the second quarter before they were able to pull away.
Still, Michigan can take comfort in learning that it has multiple playmakers who can step up and guide the team to victory, as the Wolverines discovered against the Catamounts.
While junior guard Katelynn Flaherty made just three of her 13 shots for eight points total, sophomore center Hallie Thome notched a double-double, scoring 18 points and garnering 11 rebounds.
Junior forward Jillian Dunston also joined in the effort, tallying 10 points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick came off the bench in the third quarter and racked up 11 points before the end of the frame.
Though Michigan would certainly love to see Flaherty score something closer to her average of 19.1 points against American, the Wolverines can sleep easier knowing that they have other options to go to.
“We’ve been talking since the beginning of the season about our balanced attack,” Barnes Arico said. “And how different our team is when you have multiple people on any given night who can score. Katelynn kind of had a little bit of an off night, and Hallie was really able to step up and play exceptionally well. And Katelynn did a great job finding Hallie.”
Michigan will look forward to closing out its non-conference schedule at home and then staying put to open its conference slate against Rutgers on Dec. 28.