Going into the Michigan women’s basketball game at Northwestern on Tuesday, freshman center Hallie Thome was ranked second nationally in field goal percentage. And her offensive efficiency was on display once again against the Wildcats, as the Wolverines raced to a 70-65 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
For the second game in a row, Thome registered 20 or more points. Her 22 points on the night led the Wolverines (9-8 Big Ten, 17-11 overall), and she was joined in double-digit scoring by sophomore guard Kateylnn Flaherty and junior guard Siera Thompson, who scored 17 and 13 points, respectively.
The Wolverines were slow to get going in the first half, scoring just 13 points in the first quarter, but they went into halftime with a five-point lead and never looked back.
“We’re a high-scoring team, and tonight we couldn’t really get the ball to fall in the basket,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico in a postgame interview with Big Ten Network. “We had to grind it out on the defensive end and we found a way to do that.”
Thome came out of the locker room on fire, scoring six points in the first 4:28 of the second half, and the Wolverines extended their lead to 50-39 by the time the third quarter came to a close.
Though Michigan has had a potent offense all season, the Wolverines have struggled on the glass. But Michigan didn’t have any difficulty grabbing boards against Northwestern (4-13, 15-14) and, surprisingly, the Wolverine guards led the way in that category. Freshman guard Boogie Brozoski paced the team with seven rebounds and Thompson added another five to the total.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Brozoski drove the lane, drawing the Northwestern defenders and dishing it to Thome for an easy layup. That assist was one of Brozoski’s seven on the night and slowed the momentum the Wildcats had been building.
Northwestern was able to come within four points with 39 seconds remaining and caused further concern when it pressed the Wolverines and stole the ball back. But the Wildcats rushed the shot and were forced to foul when Michigan collected the rebound.
With just 17 seconds remaining, Thome picked up her fifth foul and the Wildcats were able to cut the lead to four once more. However, the Wolverines stayed in control and made the free throws they needed in order to close out the game.
“I think we’ve really improved (our free throws),” Barnes Arico said to MGoBlue.com after the game. “The team as a whole, but also getting the right people the ball at the end of the basketball game to be fouled.”
The Wildcats were led offensively by forward Nia Coffey, who had 22 points while also creating problems for the Wolverines in the paint, as she compiled a career-high six blocks on the night. Northwestern also benefitted from 14 points from forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and 11 assists from guard Ashley Deary.
Tuesday’s win puts Michigan above .500 in conference play for the first time this season, as they improved to 9-8.