When the Michigan women’s basketball team hosted Xavier last season, it ran the Musketeers out of Crisler Center to the tune of a 92-54 beatdown
But when it was the Wolverines’ turn to travel from Ann Arbor to Cincinnati, Xavier (6-0) made last season’s loss a distant memory, edging Michigan, 61-58.
Unlike last year’s offensive blitzkrieg, the Wolverines (7-2) uncharacteristically struggled to sink their shots, shooting just 33.9 percent from the field.
Michigan’s offensive troubles also hurt them in the paint. Two early fouls by sophomore center Hallie Thome sidelined her for much of the first half, and the Wolverines couldn’t develop a low post presence throughout the game.
The two teams were mostly similar on the stat sheet, but the Musketeers held a big rebounding advantage on both ends. With Thome in foul trouble and a smaller lineup in to replace her, Xavier pounded the glass, outrebounding Michigan 46-32 and getting the second chances it needed, which proved to be the difference maker.
While the Wolverines’ issues in those areas kept the contest closer than expected, their defense also stymied the Musketeers’ attack, forcing a 28-28 tie heading into halftime.
Just as Michigan did against Western Michigan on Nov. 21, when it had a two-point lead at halftime but pulled away in the second half, the Wolverines hoped they could replicate that same performance into the third quarter.
“I definitely did expect (the team) to start clicking,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I think we showed signs of it. But we really couldn’t sustain it. Xavier did a great job of taking us out of our game plan, limiting our transition, and we started to play in the half-court, which we don’t want to do.”
Offensive difficulties for both teams carried into the second half, but the Wolverines entered the final quarter with a 46-44 lead thanks to a buzzer-beating bucket by freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick.
But for Michigan, the worst shooting woes were yet to come. After a five-point run by Xavier, layups from senior guard Siera Thompson and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty put the Wolverines down only one with 3:08 left in the game. From that point on, Michigan made just three free throws and missed its final six field-goal attempts, unable to take the lead and the game.
“I was trying to get us going offensively, but I think it cost us on the defensive end,” Barnes Arico said. “We really did get killed on the glass and didn’t have any second-chance opportunities. We went offensive to get something going, and it hurt us with our rebounding.”
In Michigan’s worst offensive outing thus far, Flaherty and Thompson were the only Wolverines who notched double figures, scoring 21 and 12, respectively — a stark contrast from a team that came into the game seventh in the nation in scoring offense.