A 28-point cruiser, a 23-point triumph and a 27-point blowout.
It has been that easy for the Michigan women’s basketball team, which has ridden a smooth road to the quarterfinals of the WNIT with back-to-back-to-back landslide wins. They have yet to meet their match.
Already three opponents — Wright State, Bucknell and San Diego — have seen their seasons end at Crisler Center, and Temple has the next chance at downing Michigan (20-13).
The Owls (23-11) won in Philadelphia on Thursday night, beating Ohio, 75-61. The turnaround pairs them up with the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Monday.
Temple should finally give the Wolverines a more fitting matchup. Temple is guard-heavy like Michigan, with four guards averaging double figures in scoring for the Owls, but if the Wolverines continue their momentum, the Owls have a tall task ahead of them in Ann Arbor.
Michigan is averaging 85 points in the WNIT, about 10 higher than its season average, and three consecutive blowouts have been indicative of its potential, which finally seems to be revealing itself.
Senior guard Madison Ristovski is excelling in her final push as a Wolverine, averaging more than twice as many points in the past two games (15) as she did in the regular season (7.2). Michigan, as always, receives large contributions from sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty and freshman center Hallie Thome.
But Flaherty — averaging 20.3 points in the WNIT — could have gone scoreless in the three first rounds, and Michigan still would’ve won each of those games.
That’s how far Michigan has been ahead of its competition.
Though the original field of 64 teams included familiar and reputable opponents such as Iowa and Minnesota, they were both eliminated by the end of the second round.
The Wolverines are the only Big Ten team remaining out of six, and not many big-name schools are left. Nonetheless, the bracket’s results have been of little surprise to Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.
“In postseason play, anything can happen,” Barnes Arico said after the team’s win Saturday against San Diego. “It depends on matchups and who’s hot at the time that you face them. I know the teams that we would have to play next are playing extremely well.”
The final round-of-16 game will be played Friday night, after which only eight teams will remain. The Wolverines have locked up one those eight spots, and they could move on to the semifinals with one more win against Temple.
Like Michigan, Temple played in the WNIT semifinal last year, but did not advance after losing to West Virginia in overtime. Michigan lost in the 2015 WNIT semifinal to UCLA.
The similarities continue as the Owls also had NCAA Tournament aspirations this season, but a third-place finish in the American Athletic Conference was not enough to sway the selection committee.
Temple squeaked past Quinnipiac in the WNIT’s round of 32, hanging onto a two-point lead in the final seconds. In the round of 16 against Ohio, Temple guard Feyonda Fitzgerald had 22 points to keep her team’s season alive.
Guard Alliya Butts, averaging 15.2 points and three assists per game this season, also leads the Owls. Butts, a freshman, looks to elongate her first postseason to the Final Four of the WNIT, but to do that, she’ll have to get past a Michigan team looking for a same sense of déjà vu.