For much of Tuesday night’s contest against Ohio, it seemed like the Michigan women’s basketball team was going to have to rely on its presence in the paint to take care of a small Bobcats team.
The Wolverines held just a 27-21 lead over Ohio (7-1) going into the half, and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty and senior guard Siera Thompson — two of Michigan’s best scorers — were an ugly 2-for-19 from the field.
But when sophomore center Hallie Thome found herself in foul trouble early, Michigan (9-3) had no other choice but to correct course and focus on its jump shots instead.
Shaking off their first-half performances, Thompson and Flaherty managed to do just that. Flaherty scored 17 second-half points — tying her season high of 25 for the game — to pull away from the Bobcats and pick up the 69-46 win.
Flaherty contributed when the Wolverines needed it most. Up just 30-24 with 9:11 left in the third quarter, Flaherty outscored Ohio 13-4 all by herself in a 3:34 span to put the Wolverines ahead by double figures.
“Katelynn took over the game in the third quarter going on a scoring spree,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She’s tough from every spot. You can think she’s gonna have an off night, and it never works that way. She figures out a way to score the basketball. Tonight was another example of that.”
Flaherty also became the seventh player in Michigan history to score 1,500 points, and is the fastest to do so.
While Flaherty has remained an offensive threat, scoring in double figures every game this season, Thompson has also started to find her groove.
Thompson notched her second career double-double, tallying 10 points and 12 boards, with her first coming just four days prior against San Diego State.
Throughout the past week of practices, Barnes Arico challenged Thompson to compete harder on the glass. With Thome — the Wolverines’ tallest player — sidelined, they needed support on the boards from everyone to compensate for her absence. Barnes Arico’s request was one that Thompson couldn’t refuse.
“The coaches have challenged the guards to get more rebounds and help our bigs out because we’re so small,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know I had a double-double until Katelynn told me in the game.”
Added Barnes Arico: “(Flaherty and Thompson) are one of the smaller guard tandems in the Big Ten. They have to help us rebound, (and) they hadn’t been doing it very often. I think Siera took that to heart. Every time you give her a challenge, she steps up to the plate, and she’s shown that for four years.”
Barnes Arico credits Thompson for rising to the occasion. But in Thompson’s eyes, it's easy when her teammates are boxing out and hitting their shots.
“My teammates make me look good,” Thompson said. “Especially with assists with Katelynn, (freshman guard) Kysre (Gondrezick) and Hallie. I’m surrounded by so many good players that it's easy to make plays and give them the ball so they can score.”
Flaherty and Thompson came into the contest tied for the most 3-pointers in Michigan history with 215. The two players have been going back and forth with the top spot on the list, but Flaherty took sole possession of the lead, hitting three to Thompson’s two.
With sophomore guard Nicole Munger limited due to a foot injury and offensive woes from the bench players, Flaherty and Thompson showed their veteran leadership to bounce back nicely after an 84-64 loss at UCLA on Sunday.