Sunday’s loss to Princeton may have been the Michigan women’s basketball team’s first game of the 2015-16 season outside the state of Michigan, but Katelynn Flaherty enjoyed having a home crowd of her own.
The Point Pleasant, N.J., native returned to the Garden State for the second time in her career and scored 33 points — the second-most in her career — in the Wolverines’ 74-57 loss.
With family and friends in the stands, Flaherty was determined to put on a better show than in her previous appearance in her home state.
In last year’s visit to Rutgers, the then-freshman laid an egg, shooting 1-for-5 from the field and finishing the night with just four points off the bench. It was one of Flaherty’s worst performances in the season she was named Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year.
This time around, Flaherty impressed everyone in Jadwin Gymnasium at Princeton. Despite being double-teamed and physically challenged, the sophomore stepped up and put on one of the best performances of her career.
“It shows how much I’ve grown since freshman year,” Flaherty said. “I think coming back was much more of an enjoyable experience this year, just because I’m more confident and more into the flow of the game. I had a lot of fun playing this year compared to last year when I was more nervous.”
But Flaherty wanted not just to put on a memorable individual game, but help her team earn a signature win.
Her 33-point night wasn’t enough to lift the Wolverines past the Tigers, who sit just outside the top 25 in this week’s polls. Outside of Flaherty’s 11 made field goals, Michigan shot 25 percent from the field, and no other scorer reached double digits.
Flaherty’s zero assists and zero rebounds added to a frustrating night for the Wolverines. Besides her point tally, the sophomore accumulated just two other statistics — two steals and four turnovers.
It looked like the rest of the team was struggling in ways Flaherty did in her first trip back home against the Scarlet Knights, especially freshman guards Nicole Munger and Boogie Brozoski — who were also making homecoming trips.
Munger and Brozoski — from Doylestown, Pa. and the Bronx, N.Y., respectively — showed their freshman inexperience and struggled in their first trip back to the Northeast in performances similar to Flaherty’s last January in Piscataway.
The freshmen combined to shoot 1-for-6 and turned the ball over five times in 27 minutes on the court.
Now, having shown she can personally handle the homecoming, Flaherty will have to take on a new challenge before the Wolverines return in February to take on Rutgers in their regular-season finale.
The amount of regional high-school accolades between Flaherty, Munger and Brozoski can’t be counted on one hand, but the number of wins in the Northeast for Michigan can’t be counted at all.
It’s up to Flaherty to change that. If she can help her teammates make the leap she’s made between her two trips home, then come February, the Wolverines likely have what it takes for the current group to attain its first win in the Garden State.
“Katelynn cares about the team first,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She knows she’s going to need to be able to have nights like that. We need to get everyone on the team involved for us to be successful as well.”