The Minnesota women’s basketball team nearly created déjà vu for Michigan on Sunday afternoon.
At one point in the first quarter, Michigan led by 17 — the same deficit it overcame Thursday in a comeback against Iowa. Minnesota chipped away at the Wolverines’ early lead, but it could not catch up late.
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty iced the game from the free-throw line, and Michigan (2-2 Big Ten, 10-5 overall) came out on top, 93-86.
The Gophers (2-2, 10-5) face-guarded Flaherty, even away from the ball, but Michigan’s leading scorer shot 9-for-14 to earn 33 points.
Flaherty, who averaged 21.2 points before Sunday, passed that mark midway through the third quarter.
The Wolverines’ win moves them to .500 in conference play after they opened the Big Ten season with devastating back-to-back losses to Purdue and Indiana.
What they couldn’t do against either of those opponents, though, was jump ahead early, but Sunday they had no trouble lighting up the field from the opening tip. Michigan scored 35 points in the first quarter, leaving its coach amazed.
“I didn’t know we could score 35 points,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in an interview with MGoBlue after the game. “To do that in one quarter, that’s pretty incredible.”
Michigan embarrassed the Gophers’ defense in the first quarter. During the first 10 minutes, the Wolverines built up a 17-point lead and outrebounded Minnesota, 14-5. Seven of those 14 rebounds were offensive rebounds.
“(Minnesota) has only been outrebounded one time this year, and really that was our number-one goal today — to outrebound them,” Barnes Arico said. “We did a terrific job. They had a lot of long shots down the stretch, and we had to battle, and we had to fight, and we missed a couple long ones in the end, but we did a great job on the boards.”
Sophomore guard Jillian Dunston led the team with 15 rebounds, an impressive showing for playing just 22 minutes off the bench. She averaged 5.7 rebounds per game before the contest. Dunston was also one bucket away from a double-double, scoring eight points.
Aided by Dunston’s ferocity on the boards, Michigan won the rebounding battle, 46-33.
Dunston was not alone in the race for the double-double, though, as junior guard Siera Thompson (18 points, eight assists), senior forward Kelsey Mitchell (13 points, nine rebounds) and freshman center Hallie Thome (16 points, eight rebounds) were all knocking on the door of the feat.
Three Gophers scored 20-plus points to help Minnesota creep back into the game, but the Wolverines’ consistency from the free-throw line kept stretching the lead.
Michigan is now 9-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points.
Consecutive wins after consecutive losses brought out the Wolverines’ strengths and weaknesses. Two games saw Michigan fail to convert free throws and struggle to score in the paint. Two others featured the Wolverines lighting up opponents from beyond the arc and dominating on the glass.
Sunday, Michigan was the latter, and Minnesota’s time ran out.