Before Thursday’s contest against No. 3 Maryland, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico told her team, “We need to win five minutes at a time.”
With 38 seconds left in the third quarter, it appeared that the strategy was paying off, as the Wolverines held a 61-60 advantage.
But then junior guard Katelynn Flaherty was called for a foul, sending Terrapins guard Iesha Small to the free-throw line, where she made one of two shots to tie the game. Forward Kiah Gillespie then made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Maryland the lead.
The Wolverines unraveled from there, as they were outscored 19-9 in the fourth quarter en route to an 83-70 defeat. The Terrapins dominated on the glass as well as in the paint, winning the second-chance points battle, 23-5, and the points-in-the-paint battle, 54-26.
“I thought it was a great basketball game,” Barnes Arico said. “The final score didn’t really indicate how close of a game it was. Maryland is an outstanding team, and we knew that we were going to have a tough contest tonight. I was really proud of how our team responded for three quarters. I think Maryland’s depth and ability to force turnovers really helped them down the stretch.”
Michigan (4-2 Big Ten, 15-5 overall) came out hot in the first quarter, racing out to a 17-10 lead with 1:57 left. Flaherty and sophomore center Hallie Thome combined for 12 points and two rebounds in the frame. At the same time, Michigan capitalized on five Maryland turnovers, turning them into six points.
But then Thome picked up two fouls in the next three minutes, forcing her to the bench. Her absence was felt, as the Terrapins (6-0, 18-1) were able to string together a 16-2 run into the early minutes of the second quarter.
Although Thome still played for just over two minutes in the second frame, her mobility was limited due to her hesitance to pick up a third foul. But her cautious approach didn’t stop her from picking up an offensive foul with 3:08 remaining before halftime, and Maryland took advantage, acquiring a 39-26 edge with 2:08 left in the frame.
“I think for big kids, their biggest strength in their development is to figure out the referees,” Barnes Arico said.
But then Terrapins center Brionna Jones was called for her second personal foul, sending her to the sideline. Michigan seized the opportunity and went on a 9-0 run to end the half.
“She’s tough,” Barnes Arico said about Jones. “She’s tough to double, she finishes, she’s got quick moves. But she’s really, really, really consistent.”
The Wolverines’ good fortune was spearheaded by Flaherty, who scored the five final points of the half. Junior guard Maria Backman contributed off the bench during the run with two free throws and six rebounds in the final stretch of the second quarter.
Flaherty continued to put her team on her back in the third quarter. She scored ten points and nabbed a steal in the first three minutes of the frame, which allowed Michigan to attain a 47-46 advantage. Flaherty finished Thursday’s contest with 30 points.
“My teammates put me in great positions,” Flaherty said. “(Senior guard Siera Thompson) is a great point guard. The rest of the team, they played to our strengths. They kept hitting me, and I think that helps. A lot of my points were in transition, and I like playing open court.”
Michigan proceeded to commit three turnovers, setting up four Maryland points. Even though freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick made two 3-pointers and Flaherty sank three free throws, propelling the Wolverines to a 61-60 lead, it would be their last of the game.
“We feel like we have great pieces that can score, that can score in transition,” Barnes Arico said. “We just got to be able to go for longer stretches like a team like Maryland does. And hopefully as the season goes on, we will continue to improve on that, and our younger kids will continue to get better and be able to provide some more minutes.”
With the loss, Michigan has now lost all four games it has played against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, though none were ranked below 16th.
Luckily for the Wolverines, there are no contests against ranked opponents left on their regular-season schedule. Michigan’s toughest remaining adversary on paper is Michigan State, who is currently 47th in the Ratings Percentage Index, fourteen spots below the Wolverines.