Foul trouble has been a problem for the Michigan women’s basketball team the entire season, and Thursday’s game against Iowa in Iowa City was no exception.
The Wolverines received a 31-point performance from sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty — her fourth 30-point game of the season — but it wasn’t enough for Michigan to overcome its foul trouble in the post, as the Wolverines fell to the Hawkeyes, 85-69.
The sophomore guard shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range on her way to 24 points in the first half. Michigan only trailed by one at the break, but it was all downhill from there.
“We were up, I think our confidence was good, I think we were getting in transition,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in an interview with MGoBlue.com. “Katelynn was really shooting the ball exceptionally well, and then we had a bunch of fouls where we might have been up 10 at one point, and then they started making their foul shots and they cut the gap.”
Michigan was in foul trouble early, specifically in the post, as senior forward Kelsey Mitchell and freshman center Hallie Thome committed three and two first-half fouls, respectively.
The team’s foul trouble pushed Iowa into the bonus with 2:36 left in the first half, sparking a 13-4 run to end the opening stanza, with five of those points coming from the charity stripe.
Michigan started the second half cold, missing its first five shots as Iowa extended its lead to 10 with 4:36 to go in the third quarter.
Thome quickly committed her third foul less than three minutes into the second half, further adding to the Wolverines’ trouble in the post, as she headed to the bench yet again.
With Thome taking another seat, Iowa forwards Chase Coley and Megan Gustafson took advantage of the foul trouble inside, as both players posted double-doubles in points and rebounds.
“Defensively we did a decent job on them in the first half,” Barnes Arico said. “But in the first half they made seven 3s, so (in the second half) they weren’t making as many 3s, they were really trying to attack inside, and that’s been an area of struggle for us all year.”
With two starters looking to avoid fouling out, Michigan needed to get production from other sources. However, the team did not receive much support from its bench in the loss. The Iowa reserves outscored the Wolverines’ bench, 33-6, in the game and even though four Michigan starters made it to double digits, it could not counter the Hawkeyes’ advantage.
A crucial part of Michigan’s downfall was Iowa’s 84-percent shooting from the free-throw line and Michigan’s 23 total fouls.
Though the Wolverines were able to cut the deficit to six in the final minutes, the Hawkeyes imposed themselves on the game and pushed their final lead to 16.
“Losing is never fun, and it’s never easy for anyone and I just think that it’s a process,” Barnes Arico said. “Instead of looking at the wins and losses, a lot of times we’ve just got to look at ‘OK, let’s be better next game.’ ”