While the Michigan women’s basketball team is known for its depth and ability to spread the ball around to a variety of contributors, one individual performance stood out for the Wolverines (2-0 Big Ten, 13-3 overall) in their 73-56 road win over the Badgers (0-1, 5-9) to start the new year on a high note.
Sophomore forward Hallie Thome scored more than half of Michigan’s points — 37 to be exact. That feat lands Thome at No. 2 on the list of most points during a single game in Wolverine history, a fact she knew nothing about over the course of her dominant showing.
“I had no idea,” Thome said. “(Junior guard Maria Backman) tried to tell me at one of the timeouts, and I was like, ‘Maria, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.’ I don’t like knowing the points, I just like playing the game and doing my own thing.”
Though Thome pushed the statistics to the back of her mind during game time, she was pleased to learn the final tally once the contest had come to a close. While Thome averages 14.6 points per game so far this season, her accuracy took her to the next level Sunday, as she shot 13-for-15 from the floor.
“She hasn’t really had a breakout game in a while,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “So hopefully this really elevates her confidence, because she was sensational.”
At 6-foot-5 — the tallest of the Wolverines — Thome used her height and length to her advantage in controlling the paint and making layups look effortless. She found her way to the free-throw line often and made the most of it, going 11-for-13 on the afternoon. Thome not only led the team in points, but achieved a double-double by tacking on 14 rebounds.
“Being aggressive and wanting to go get them (made the difference),” Thome said. “It was a close game, but we just had the will to want to go and get it. I think that’s what our whole team had.”
Junior guard Jillian Dunston played a major role on the glass as well, contributing nine defensive boards and preventing Wisconsin from gaining second-chance attempts.
“That was our number one goal today, to just rebound the basketball,” Barnes Arico said. “We knew we were going to be undersized against them, and Jillian Dunston did a great job.”
Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick was another bright spot on the court for Michigan on Sunday, tallying 16 points and five rebounds of her own.
As a newcomer to the Wolverines, Gondrezick has quickly made a name for herself in the conference, earning recognition as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice already this season. She has also recently broken into the starting lineup, as this was just her second time on the court from the opening tip. She joined the starting five for the first time on Dec. 28 against Rutgers.
Against the Badgers, Gondrezick’s three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter solidified Michigan’s win over Wisconsin, proving that she might stay in the starting lineup for good.
The Wolverines’ leading scorer, junior guard Katelynn Flaherty, became Michigan’s fifth-highest scorer in program history with her eight-point performance. Yet it wasn’t the level of play that can usually be expected from Flaherty, who averages 17.9 points.
Flaherty’s eight points make this her fourth straight game with fewer points than her season average, following her totals of eight against Vermont, 17 against American and 13 against Rutgers.
“As a player, you have a couple games like that, you start questioning everything you do,” Barnes Arico said. “You start pressing, you’re questioning when your shot is released, pretty much everything.
“But she’s a tremendous player. …She’s going to play herself out of this.”
While Flaherty has still managed to be productive, Michigan is expecting much more from its consensus All-Big Ten first-team player. She went 0-for-7 on 3-pointers against the Badgers, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.
But while the Wolverines wait for Flaherty to regain the shooting stroke and confident approach that have characterized her career, they have capable players who can make up for the deficit. With her performance Sunday, Thome proved that she can take control and lead Michigan to victory on her own.