At first glance, the Michigan women’s basketball team was struggling against Binghamton throughout Saturday’s game, holding a single-digit lead for most of the first half.
But once the second half began, the Wolverines quickly regrouped and didn’t allow the Bearcats to come close to contending for the lead. In the four minutes following halftime, Michigan shot 7-for-9 with four 3-pointers to extend its lead to 18 and pave the way for an eventual 90-62 victory in the season opener at Crisler Center.
“We got up and full-court pressed them, and that ignited a run,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We changed the gap from 10 to 20 in the first couple minutes in the second half, and I think that was a key thing for us to really be able to change the defense.”
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty and freshman guard Nicole Munger led the team in scoring with 19 points each. Munger — who closed the game with three straight baskets in just under two minutes — was a major threat all around, with impressive perimeter shooting, a strong ability to rebound the ball and shifty defense.
The Wolverines’ guards proved to be their biggest strength of the game. Junior guard Siera Thompson, named one of the team’s two captains Friday, dropped four 3-pointers and added 14 total points. When it wasn’t her, it was freshman guard Boogie Brozoski, whose speedy tempo gave the Bearcats a headache on both offense and defense. Together, Flaherty, Munger, Thompson and Brozoski combined for 62 points.
Binghamton coach Linda Cimino had her team simulate Flaherty coverage throughout the week at practice, not realizing the depth Michigan actually had. The Wolverines had all but one player on the entire team score a point.
“We had number three on somebody’s jersey all week preparing (for Flaherty), and then here comes Siera knocking down four or five threes,” Cimino said. “Then you try to guard her, then Nicole’s hitting shots, and then Boogie comes out, and she’s hitting shots… all four of their guards can hit the shot and hit the 3.”
Michigan (1-0) outrebounded Binghamton, 53-28, with the help of Munger and sophomore forward Jillian Dunston collected eight and nine rebounds, respectively, to help. The Wolverines’ rebounding strength was on display in the last 30 seconds of the first half, when Munger and Dunston each collected an offensive rebound on one possession, setting up Flaherty to drive below the basket, make a layup and give Michigan an 11-point halftime lead.
But an explosive opening to the second half and some great offensive possessions can’t erase some of the mindless errors that the Wolverines made during most of the first half, which allowed Binghamton to keep the scoring deficit within 10.
Michigan’s offense initially had trouble moving the ball around and gave up a few quality chances.
The Wolverines’ defense had too many holes during the first half as well, and didn’t come together until the full-court press went into effect during the third quarter. By that point, just four Binghamton players had scored, until a few more added several points in the final quarter.
“In practice all the time, we focus on defense, defense, defense,” Flaherty said. “Defense wins games, and when you play better teams in the Big Ten, you’re gonna get cremated if you don’t play defense. We need to play harder and really focus in on personnel and scout more than we did today.”
With a quick turnaround for Michigan, which will play at Detroit on Sunday, the defense will need to come out strong from the start, or the Wolverines will quickly find themselves in trouble.