Back on Jan. 22, the No. 25 Michigan women’s basketball team traveled to Lincoln and defeated Nebraska, 84-51. It was the Wolverines’ most lopsided victory in Big Ten play.
Michigan was just five points away from tying that margin Thursday night at Crisler Center, as the Wolverines routed the Cornhuskers, 88-60. The win snapped a two-game skid for Michigan.
Though it was Senior Night, it was the younger players who took charge for the Wolverines (11-5 Big Ten, 22-7 overall). While junior guard Katelynn Flaherty led with 25 points, freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick was only one rebound away from a double-double, nabbing 21 points and nine boards. Sophomore center Hallie Thome notched 21 points and seven rebounds of her own.
“It was definitely a bounce-back game,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I thought we shared the ball really well. I thought we were able to make shots. Also to honor (senior guards Siera Thompson and Danielle Williams) in their last home contest.”
Michigan wasted little time gaining a lead in the first quarter, hitting 10 of its first 12 shots to take a 28-11 lead at the end of the frame. Flaherty led the charge by sinking three 3-point shots, which was three more than she made in the last two games combined. Gondrezick made two long-range baskets of her own in the frame, matching her total from the previous two contests.
“Katelynn is such an incredible scorer,” Barnes Arico said. “I think the other day Michigan State really keyed in on her and limited her touches. And that made it difficult for her. Anytime she gets a good look, you feel like she can score the basketball.”
But it was the Wolverines’ defense that really stood out in the first quarter. Michigan held Nebraska (2-13, 6-21) to just 26.7 percent shooting and allowed only one basket from behind the arc.
The Wolverines’ momentum continued in the second quarter as Gondrezick and Flaherty opened the frame with back-to-back 3-pointers. That allowed Michigan to take a 44-26 advantage into halftime despite a 9-0 Cornhusker run to end the frame. Nebraska helped Michigan’s cause by turning the ball over five times.
The third quarter belonged to Thome, though, who drew four fouls in the first seven minutes, including one after a made basket. Her ability to get to the free-throw line added nine points to the Wolverines, allowing them to take a 62-41 edge into the final quarter. Thome’s production made up for the fact that Michigan sank just five of its 14 shots in the frame.
“I was so happy with how many times she was able to get to the free-throw line,” Barnes Arico said. “That was incredible for us. I hope she can continue to do that moving forward.”
Thome, Flaherty and Gondrezick continued to carry the team in the fourth quarter, as Flaherty grabbed six more points, Gondrezick nabbed five and Thome scored two. The trio’s contributions, as has been the case for much of the year, carried the Wolverines to victory.
But the seniors weren’t about to let the underclassmen soak up all of the glory. With three minutes remaining, Williams sank a 3-point shot, instantly quadrupling her point total for the game. Thompson added a 3-pointer of her own a little over a minute later, bringing her point total to eight.
“I don’t really think about scoring and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “I’m just trying to get a win. And yeah, it’s about me because it’s Senior Night, but you want to get a win first.”
With Thursday’s victory, the Wolverines accomplished two notable feats. Michigan earned its 22nd win of the season, which is tied for the most in program history, and clinched third place in the Big Ten for just the fourth time in school history. A lot of attention will now be paid to the Big Ten Tournament and a likely berth in the NCAA Tournament.
With all of that in mind, it’s easy to forget that the Wolverines still have another regular-season contest. Michigan will travel to State College on Sunday to take on Penn State (8-7, 18-9), who led Michigan State by 18 points on Wednesday before ultimately falling, 73-64.
“They’re a good team, and they’re a really good team at home,” Barnes Arico said. “They’re led by one of the best guards in the country in Teniya Paige. They’ll be ready to go, it’s the last home game for them.”