For the first time in program history, the Michigan women’s basketball team is headed to Atlanta for a matchup against Georgia Tech.
“Georgia Tech is a great team, especially at home,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in an interview with WKTA. “They haven’t lost yet. They’re coming off a win in (the Junkanoo Jam tournament in Bimini, Bahamas) and they won against their in-state rival, Georgia, earlier this season. They’re really off to a great start.”
The Wolverines shouldn’t be fazed, though. The team is entering the contest ranked first in the nation in 3-point-field goal percentage (.455) and second in field-goal percentage (.518). Additionally, Michigan is No. 12 in scoring defense and has received votes in both the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Despite those numbers, the Wolverines (6-1) are coming off of a loss against No.10 Florida State at the Paradise Jam tournament last weekend in St. Thomas. Michigan did manage to edge out No.25 Gonzaga in its first matchup of three.
The tournament was the first swing of a seven-game away series.
“We’re on the road again and our schedule is incredibly tough,” Barnes Arico said. “But we’re trying to make our players really believe. It’s going to make a difference for us down the road moving into the Big Ten Tournament, and hopefully into the NCAA Tournament, to play the schedule we’ve had.”
A large part of the team’s early-season success stems from Katelynn Flaherty. The junior guard was named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List on Nov. 30 and is averaging 19.1 points per game on a 53.6 percent shooting, including 44.0 percent from the 3-point range.
Adding to her impressive offensive statistics, Flaherty is cushioning her stat line with well-rounded performances, posting 4.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game. She has already been named to the Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll twice this season.
Flaherty is one of two Wolverines to score in double figures in each game. She is joined by sophomore center Hallie Thome, who also leads Michigan in minutes played (28.4) and total blocks (2.1 per game).
The Yellow Jackets are 6-3 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, while Michigan is 7-2 all-time in the series. Barnes Arico, herself, boasts a 3-1 record. Georgia Tech coach however MaChelle Joseph, meanwhile, is the all-time winningest coach in program history and holds a 60.9 win percentage.
The Wolverines will have to look out for guard Francesca Pan, who averaged 20 points per game in the Junkanoo Jam.
The Big Ten/ACC Challenge pits Michigan against a team that isn’t scared of fouling and playing physical, according to Barnes Arico. However, the coach doesn’t think the physicality is unheard of in the changing landscape of the Big Ten, between adding new teams and new coaches within the past six years to the conference.
Notably, though, Michigan’s bench has been outscoring its opponents’ bench in every game this year. Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Nov. 14, leads the charge, but sophomore guards Nicole Munger and Boogie Brozoski round out the effort.
“(Georgia Tech) will try to pressure us and give us a different look than we’ve faced so far,” Barnes Arico said. “Full court, really physical. They go deep into their bench, and try to rotate people in and try to pressure you.
“It will be a tough contest for us.”