When the Michigan women’s basketball team last met Michigan State back on Feb. 19, the Wolverines suffered an 86-68 defeat, junior guard Katelynn Flaherty scored just four points and they shot a mere 17.6 percent from 3-point range.
Though Flaherty managed 18 points and Michigan sank 33 percent of its shots from behind the arc Friday, those improvements were not enough, as the Spartans came out on top of the Wolverines, 74-64. Michigan State’s bench outscored Michigan’s, 22-5, in the process.
“We got good looks, but we didn’t make them,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “It was a case where we weren’t really scoring the basketball, and then we weren't getting stops so we couldn't really get anything easy in transition either.”
Despite once again coming up short against the Spartans, the Wolverines did not go down without a fight.
With five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Michigan State held a commanding 68-51 lead and looked to be running away with the contest. After trading missed baskets for a full 1:40, freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick broke the scoreless period with a 3-pointer. Twenty-five seconds later, she forced a turnover and raced down the court for a layup to pull the Wolverines within 12.
While the Spartans did their best to milk the clock, Michigan trimmed its deficit to nine with just over a minute left when sophomore guard Nicole Munger found sophomore center Hallie Thome for a layup. The Wolverines still had faint hope of completing an improbable comeback.
But shortly thereafter, Thome was called for her fifth foul, forcing her to the bench and extinguishing whatever chance Michigan still had. Thome finished Friday’s game with 14 points and nine rebounds while Gondrezick finished with 23 points.
“I’m not going go by individual performances,” Gondrezick said. “I think on both ends it’s a team effort. We had a game plan and other players just stepped up with the personnel they had and the range with the post players knocking in. It’s stuff like that that just gives you kind of like mental lapses but we just had to regroup. I know one thing that Coach talked about was that she admired the fight in us, and we just had to play to the end and we just came up short.”
For much of the first half, it appeared the Wolverines might have been on their way to better fortunes against the Spartans.
The two teams found themselves knotted at 19 points apiece at the start of the second quarter, and neither team managed to score for the first three minutes of the frame. Michigan State forward Mardrekia Cook then came through with a layup to break the deadlock.
Less than 30 seconds later, Thome committed her second foul, forcing her to the bench for the remainder of the half. At first the Wolverines weathered the storm despite Thome’s absence, and even cut their deficit to one behind a 3-point shot from Flaherty with 5:30 left in the quarter.
But Thome’s absence eventually proved too much for Michigan, as Michigan State went on a 9-0 run over the next two minutes. Only another pair of long-range baskets from Flaherty kept the Wolverines at a 34-28 deficit at halftime.
“I think we got great looks,” Flaherty said. “We missed shots. Sometimes it just happens. Moving forward, we definitely need to find a way to keep scoring when that does happen. But I think we got great looks and we just couldn't knock them down today.”
The Spartans wouldn’t keep it close for long, though, as they opened the third stanza with a 7-0 run. The squads traded baskets for the majority of the quarter until Gondrezick and Thome made a pair of short-range jumpers in the final minute to pull Michigan within single digits. But eventually, Michigan State pulled away.
With Michigan’s defeat Friday night, it will now have to wait until the NCAA Tournament selection show Mar. 13 to learn its postseason fate. Though the Wolverines will likely be in the NCAA Tournament field, their 1-4 finish to the season will end up costing them several seeding spots if they are selected.
“I know that they’re going to go out fighting and that we are going to regroup,” Barnes Arico said. “And if we get selected, which we still feel like our total body of work, which will get us selected to the NCAA Tournament, it will be the first time anyone on our team has ever been in the NCAA Tournament. So we still have a lot to play for.”