The Michigan women’s basketball team scored 119 points with ease last Monday, but that same team struggled to put up 61 on Sunday.
The Wolverines put up their lowest first-half scoring output of the season with 31 points, but still managed to notch a 61-44 victory over Oral Roberts (3-3).
Michigan’s starting guards — junior Siera Thompson, sophomore Katelynn Flaherty and senior Madison Ristovski — had trouble finding any success from the field early. The trio combined to shoot 2-for-14 in the first half.
The starting trio’s scoring began to pick up in the second half, as they looked to drive to the basket rather than strictly taking outside shots. Flaherty, Thompson and Ristovski scored 10 points from layups after the half, and 26 of the Wolverines’ 30 second-half points came in the paint.
“We’re not just shooters,” Thompson said. “We can go to the basket as well. We thought if the shots aren’t falling, we’ll get points in a different way.”
Thompson did score points from the free-throw line in the opening half for Michigan (6-0). The guard challenged the Golden Eagles’ guard Bria Pitts defensively, forcing Oral Roberts’ leading scorer to the bench when she picked up her third personal foul with 6:30 remaining in the second quarter. Thompson ended the half leading all guards with seven points, four of which were at the line.
With Pitts off the floor, the Wolverines held the Golden Eagles to just six points in the second quarter, holding them scoreless for more than four minutes.
“It was a different game than what we normally see from our team,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Even though we weren’t scoring and making shots that we normally make, the way that we defended, hung together and stayed together (was impressive). It looked more like a regular basketball team where they’ve missed some shots than what they looked like in the first five games.”
Despite the low first-half scoring mark, the Wolverines did find some initial success going through the low post to freshman Hallie Thome. The 6-foot-5 center scored six of Michigan’s first eight points.
Thome’s inside presence, combined with stifling defense, boosted the Wolverines to a 19-14 advantage in the first quarter. Michigan forced Oral Roberts guard Kaylan Mayberry into committing three turnovers in the opening quarter, and sophomore forward Jillian Dunston and freshman guard Boogie Brozoski were diving for loose balls and making plays that initiated fast-break opportunities on the other end.
Thome was the Wolverines’ most consistent source of offense Sunday, finishing with 14 points while shooting 7-for-11 from the field. The freshman also grabbed eight rebounds, one behind Dunston’s total, which led the team.
Despite the slow start, Thompson finished with a team-high 16 points and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
Flaherty had her worst shooting game of the season, converting just 25 percent of her shots from the field. She failed to score any of her five 3-point attempts in a seven-point performance — her lowest scoring output of the season.
The Wolverines now head into the most difficult stretch of their non-conference schedule, with a matchup against a quality Pittsburgh squad and a road trip to face a fringe-top 25 program in Princeton in the next week. Shooting 46 percent and making only one 3-point shot will not be enough for Michigan to challenge its upcoming opponents, and those will be the primary problems the Wolverines will have to address in the coming week.
“It’s not just about scoring,” Barnes Arico said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be able to defend, and tonight I was really happy with the way that we defended. We’re talking about how we only scored 61 points, but we held the other team to 44 points, so I think we need to take the positives out of that.”