When Katelynn Flaherty came into the post-game press conference after the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 92-76 win over Minnesota, the sophomore guard wanted to know one of the specific stat lines.
Flaherty glanced at the score sheet and quickly looked astonished.
“Woah,” Flaherty said in awe. “She took 31 shots?”
She was referencing Michigan’s opponent, Minnesota guard Rachel Banham, who scored 29 points on a 13-for-31 shooting effort.
Banham’s performance, though high-scoring, was innefficient. The Wolverines (4-6 Big Ten, 12-9 overall) contested nearly every shot she took. Banham had to carry the load, as three of the other starters for Minnesota failed to score.
Michigan junior guard Siera Thompson, who prepared for the matchup all week long, was responsible for defending Banham.
“We’ve watched (Banham) on film so much — her tendency to go right, her tendency to shoot any open jumper that she has,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “(Thompson) did a great job trying to keep the ball on her left hand and trying to keep the ball out of her right hand, and just have her hands up and constantly be near her and not give her any space.”
Unlike Banham, Thompson wasn’t her team’s leading scorer on the day — that title fell on freshman center Hallie Thome, who had a career-best 31 points. Flaherty supported Thome with 24 of her own, but Barnes Arico felt that the biggest difference maker was Thompson.
Facing off against Banham on defense, Thompson was a big reason that Minnesota’s best player missed 18 of her shots.
“Banham finished with (29 points) and a great stat line, but everything she did was contested, and everything she did was challenged,” Barnes Arico said. “I was really proud of (Thompson’s) effort all day.”
Thompson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Banham has been on Michigan’s scouting report since earlier this month. The Wolverines beat Minnesota on Jan. 10, and in that game, Banham went for 21 points. But just three days prior, she had one of the best individual performances in Minnesota history.
Against Illinois on Jan. 7, Banham set a school record with 10 3-pointers for 39 points. She also had seven rebounds and eight assists in the 106-75 rout of the Illini.
“We were fortunate that we had an opportunity to play against them prior to this matchup, because our turnaround time from our last game was not that much,” Barnes Arico said on Sunday. “(Thompson) knew what her matchup was going to be … we were prepared.”
Sunday, for Banham to shoot just 1-for-10 from beyond the arc was a huge victory for Michigan. The one 3-pointer that she did convert was a wide-open shot. Everything else, thanks to Thompson, was contested.
Thompson’s quiet performance may have gone unnoticed next to Thome’s career day and Flaherty’s always-consistent scoring, but Banham felt the effect.
Michigan and Minnesota don’t have any other scheduled meetings this year, but the Big Ten Tournament begins in just over a month. If the Wolverines meet Banham again, Thompson will be ready.