Hallie Thome is 6-foot-5, but she still has room to grow.
The Michigan women’s basketball team’s freshman center isn’t having her way with opponents like she did throughout the non-conference schedule.
The “pass her the ball, she can’t miss” trend hasn’t slowed down, but Thome’s unlucky tendency to get into foul trouble in important games is haunting the Wolverines.
Sunday’s 93-81 defeat against Nebraska was Michigan’s worst loss so far in the Big Ten. After giving up 21 points to the Cornhuskers in the first five minutes, the Wolverines stormed back to nearly tie the game early in the third quarter. A few minutes later, the Cornhuskers had again widened the lead to 10, and Thome collected her fourth personal foul. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico took her off the court.
Before the end of the quarter, Nebraska would extend that lead to 17.
Thome finished with an impressive 24 points, two blocks and six rebounds, but she also fouled out of the game, leaving Nebraska’s strong post presence unmatched for most of the final quarter.
The Cornhuskers, much like No. 5 Maryland did on Jan. 14, put Thome in difficult matchups. Thome accumulated four fouls going up against the Terrapins’ center Brionna Jones and wasn’t able to have as much of an impact as Michigan would’ve liked, scoring 15 points, but grabbing just five boards.
Thome has been clutch at times with her offensive consistency, but the Wolverines’ (3-5 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) problems arise when she starts to rack up fouls.
“Hallie’s a heck of a freshman,” Barnes Arico said. “And hopefully over the course of Hallie’s career, she’s going to continue to improve and continue to be a better defender and rebounder.”
Thome has averaged 15.1 points and six rebounds through the opening eight games of the Big Ten season. She scores profusely, ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage at 64.8 percent and wins almost every opening tip.
Since the season opener, the Wolverines have been able to rely on her. Against then-No. 20 UCLA, she put up a career-high 24 points and seven rebounds. She then had her second career double-double against No. 7 Ohio State with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
She has developed a strong touch around the rim, and she continues to impress with her spinning peel-back moves around the basket. Thome has been the tallest one on the court in every game this season, but adapting to the gritty toughness that some of her opponents possess has proven to be difficult.
“We need to be tougher on the glass,” said senior guard Madison Ristovski. “We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds.”
Added junior guard Siera Thompson: “I think we just need to get tougher all the way around. Not giving them second-chance points.”
That word “tougher” comes up a lot when talking about rebounds, and at the center of it all is Thome.
Michigan’s competition seems to have picked up on the formula to taking down the Wolverines’ towering 6-foot-5 center.
Let Thome touch the ball in the post, and she will probably score on you. Isolate her in the post when she is on defense, and there’s a decent chance you will go to the charity stripe.
Largely due to Thome’s ability to dominate at the ‘5’ spot, Michigan ran out of the gates this season with a record-tying seven straight wins. Since then, the Wolverines have gone 4-8.
They will need Thome to regain the dominance she exhibited so many times if they want to win down the stretch.