The Michigan women’s basketball team will look to build some momentum this Thursday as it hosts Wisconsin following a strong conference win Sunday.
The Wolverines defeated Illinois, 96-83, riding on big scoring outings from sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty and freshman center Hallie Thome. The win was Michigan’s fifth conference victory of the season, and while the Wolverines are in the bottom half of the Big Ten, any win at this stage of the season will help to avoid participation in a play-in game to start the Big Ten Tournament.
Flaherty scored her 1000th career point on the way to a career-high 36 points, while Thome took advantage of the Illini’s four-guard lineup to drop 25 points of her own.
Michigan will be looking to continue its successful ball distribution in a well-balanced attack. Junior guard Siera Thompson, who leads the team in assists, led the way in that category on Sunday with eight assists. Senior guard Madison Ristovski and freshman guard Boogie Brozoski, who logged the first start of her career, also contributed seven assists each in the Illinois game.
The competition level Thursday should be similar to Sunday’s. Wisconsin is in a three-way tie for the second worst record in the conference, just two games ahead of Illinois. The Badgers just snapped a seven-game losing streak with a win over Purdue on Monday.Wisconsin has also particularly struggled on the road this season, unable to win a Big Ten game away from home this campaign.
“They beat Purdue, and Purdue was having a really outstanding season,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in her weekly interview with WTKA. “Wisconsin is led by a guard who averages about 20 points a game, they have a really great inside presence as well, kind of a one-two punch, and they’ve been a little up and down but they’re coming off a really big win and it will be a great challenge for us at home.”
The Badgers are led in scoring by a pair of senior guards, Nicole Bauman and Dakota Whyte, who average 16.4 and 12.5 points per game, respectively. The two also average over three assists per game each.
The Badgers won last season’s only meeting, 63-53, in Madison on the back of a stout defensive performance. Wisconsin limited Michigan to an abysmal 33.9 percent from the floor while shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point range. Leading the Badgers from beyond the arc was Bauman, who went 4-for-7. The combination of hot shooting and shutdown defense was enough to put away the Wolverines, and Michigan will have to look out for Bauman once again this season if it wants a chance.
On the flip side, Wisconsin, which give up an average of 71.6 points per game, will battle with the offensive prowess of the Wolverines. Michigan is eighth in the country in scoring offense, putting up 81.8 points per game.
“They probably are one of the top teams in the conference in terms of defensive field goal percentage or points against,” Barnes Arico said after Sunday’s game. “So that’s going to be interesting because we’re going from probably one end to the (other) end (of the spectrum) and we need to make sure we are still as efficient on the offensive end, even though we are playing a different style of team.”