EAST LANSING — Hallie Thome’s first point in Thursday’s game came on a free throw just three minutes into the half.
The only problem? It was the second half.
After a 31-point performance Sunday, the freshman center was shut down in the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 85-64 loss at Michigan State on Wednesday.
In the first half, Thome largely limited herself, earning two fouls and playing just eight minutes. But even when she was on the court, the Spartans had an answer for her.
“Hallie gets bumped around all the time,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She doesn’t really go to the foul line as many times as she gets bumped, and then she gets fouls called against her that are ticky-tack fouls. So I think experienced players learn how to use their body and not get fouls called against them, and I think that’s an area Hallie has to get better at.”
With Thome on the bench more than she was on the floor in the first half, the Wolverines found themselves down, 48-28, at the game’s midway point. Michigan State was able to gain a 19-12 advantage on the glass in the first half, with Michigan’s No. 1 post player out of the game.
Many of those Spartan rebounds quickly became points on the other end as Michigan State used its speed to push the fast break, holding a 31-4 edge on the break for the game.
Michigan State relied on a three-player rotation to keep Thome in check, cycling through centers Jenna Allen and Jasmine Hines and forward Kennedy Johnson. Each of the Spartans possessed a strength advantage over Thome and used it to full effect, keeping her from consistently establishing her position on the block.
Whenever Thome found room down low, the Michigan State defense was quick to send the double team. But Thome has not yet developed the instinct needed to sense when the double team is coming and pass out to her open teammates.
“They pushed us around,” Barnes Arico said. “Hines really is physical; she’s physical in the post. (Guard Ariel Powers) is physical, (guard Tori Jankoska) is physical. So that’s something that our younger kids really aren’t accustomed to, and they have to adjust to, and I think that their pressure and that physicality really affected us.”
The fouls weren’t the limiting factor for Thome in the second half, as she only committed one more in the game. What was truly the issue for Thome was the way her defenders were willing to stop her. The triumvirate of Hines, Allen and Johnson combined for nine fouls on the night, with some even occurring when the ball was well away from Thome.
Thome finished the game 2-for-4 from the field for eight points, and she collected four rebounds before she was subbed out for the final time with 2:25 left in the game.
“She needs to bend and she needs to use her body more,” Barnes Arico said. “Her lower body needs to get stronger, and these are all things that we are going to spend time in the offseason working on.”