The Michigan women’s basketball team has made its mark in the record book early this season, scoring over 100 points in three straight games for the first time and going on a jaw-dropping 52-point run against Howard.
But this weekend at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, the Wolverines finally met their match. They swept past No. 25 Gonzaga and Winthrop at the beginning of the tournament, and ended with their biggest game of the season thus far against No. 10 Florida State.
Michigan couldn’t advance its winning streak to seven games, falling to the Seminoles, 76-62, in the Wolverines’ third game of the weekend.
“I definitely thought that we got worn down a little bit,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We played against a really great team, and for a long period of time we were really even with them.”
Early in the game, Michigan went down, 8-2, and spent the remaining seven minutes of the first period playing catch-up. The Wolverines spread the scoring out, with freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick coming off the bench at the 5:11 mark and contributing five points. After the first quarter, Michigan trailed by only one.
In the second quarter, Michigan earned its first lead of the game thanks to a 3-pointer and jumper by junior guard Katelynn Flaherty, but wasn’t able to maintain it. Florida State’s scoring was relentless, and by halftime, the Wolverines were once again down, 32-28.
Then, 15 second-half fouls killed Michigan’s momentum. The Seminoles never gave up the lead, despite double-digit efforts from Flaherty (18 points), Gondrezick (17) and sophomore forward Hallie Thome (13).
“They’re a top-10 team, so they’re used to having these games,” Thome said. “They’re able to handle themselves and all the pressure and not freak out. Towards the end, unlike Gonzaga, when we played them we were able to handle ourselves and play with ease. I think for Florida State, we kind of just let it go. It could’ve been because we were mentally fatigued, so instead of just being on point with everything we kind of got a little freaked out.”
Added Flaherty: “Coming out of that game we need to work on a lot of things. Especially defense, not fouling so much towards the end, and then offensively, executing plays, not having as many turnovers. Those helped their tempo of the game.”
While the Wolverines’ first loss wasn’t how they would’ve liked to end the tournament, there were still plenty of positives throughout the weekend. Thome and Flaherty were both named to the all-tournament team, and Michigan notched its first win against a top-25 team since 2014.
Friday vs. Winthrop (1-6): Friday’s game against Winthrop could have been another opportunity for Michigan to hit the century mark. Instead, the Wolverines fell 24 points shy of that number, but still won, 76-39. Even with the impressive margin, Barnes Arico was still not satisfied.
“We couldn’t get going,” Barnes Arico said. “It took us definitely that first quarter to get going. I thought our second team really came in and gave us that energy and that burst that we needed.”
Michigan went deep into the bench, allowing all four freshmen onto the court. Munger and Brozoski also played, with 22 and 21 minutes, respectively. Munger scored 11 points, breaking into double digits to join Thome, who had 12, and Flaherty, who scored 17.
Despite their strong scoring, the Wolverines weren’t performing at their peak.
“We talked about it at halftime,” Barnes Arico said. “We were short … everyone besides Hallie on all of their shots. But I didn’t mind that as much as I minded our energy and our turnovers. We talked about turnovers, we wanted to hold it to six and we had 11, and we said in the second half we wanted to try to keep it under five. And I think we did.”
Thursday vs. No. 25 Gonzaga (4-2): Going into Thursday’s game, the Wolverines were facing their first ranked team of the season after a long flight. Still, they came out on top, beating the Bullldogs, 78-66.
Michigan has struggled in the first few minutes of play in its last two home games, going down 6-0 against both Western Michigan and Howard. But against Gonzaga, the Wolverines showed up to play. After two minutes, Michigan was up 9-2, thanks to five points from Flaherty, two from Thome and two more from senior guard Danielle Williams.
Those three got the ball rolling for the Wolverines, and they never let up, leading the game for the entire 40 minutes. Flaherty went off in the first half, tallying 17 points and ending the game with a team-high 22 points. She also tacked on seven assists to tie her career high. Senior guard Siera Thompson ran the court as well, scoring 21 points and going 5-for-6 on 3-pointers. She now has more 3-pointers than any Wolverine in history.
The closest Gonzaga came to taking the lead was in the fourth quarter, when Michigan led by just four points.
“We had a lot of games like last year that came down to the final minutes,” Thome said. “And this year we were able to beat the stats and just push through it. … It was just exciting to see that we were able to finish games when it came down to the last final minutes.”
While Thompson and Flaherty show up in the box score as the difference makers, the players coming off the bench were a huge factor in the Wolverines’ win.
“I think (sophomore guard Boogie Brozoski) and (sophomore guard Nicole Munger) really stood out, especially the first game,” Flaherty said. “Munger hit a big 3 in the corner and had a charge. Boogie has just been a great spark off the bench, she knows how to control the game and get everyone involved. I think she brings a swag to our team and makes us a lot tougher.”
The road trips aren’t coming to an end, either.
Coming off of the weekend, Michigan will practice for three days before jetting off to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“We’re going to take it game by game,” Thome said. “We’re going to be road warriors and just do what we usually do. … It doesn’t matter what gym we’re in or how many hours we’ve been on flights. It’s definitely a fun experience, but it is a tiring one, and I think we’re ready for it.”