This weekend the Michigan women’s basketball team (3-1 Big Ten, 14-4 overall) will be looking to defend its undefeated 9-0 streak at Crisler Center this season. The Wolverines will be squaring off against Minnesota (1-3, 10-7) on Sunday, the only contest between the two teams this year.
The Wolverines are coming off a hot win against Indiana, something sophomore center Hallie Thome attributes to focus.
“We have a lot of growth (this season),” Thome said. “And to pull it out against a Big Ten team is something special. To pull it out means we’re still locked in at the game and locked in throughout the entire game to be able to take away what (the opposing team) wants to do.”
Michigan has been averaging 83.7 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting at home, and junior guard Katelynn Flaherty has done most of the damage. Flaherty has 1,614 career points and stands fourth all-time at Michigan, though she is just 33 points away from overtaking Trish Andrew, who played from 1989-93, for third place.
The last time the Wolverines faced the Golden Gophers, Michigan swept Minnesota and ended the Golden Gophers’ three-game winning streak in the series — the record stands with Minnesota in the lead, 34-27. This year, Minnesota is coming off an 88-point performance in a win against Wisconsin, but it hasn’t played a game in over a week
Notably, the Golden Gophers hold a 31-4 record when scoring at least 80 points. The Wolverines will try to stop Minnesota from reaching that number, most likely with the help of Thome and junior guard Jillian Dunston. Thome boasts 129 total rebounds on the season, and Dunston leads by one with 130.
Thome has been praised for her dominant performances since conference play started. She has notched two double-doubles in the past four games and anchors Michigan on both the defensive and offensive ends, averaging 20.3 points per game.
She currently ranks sixth in the conference in scoring, and is shooting 69.0 percent from the floor.
Thome has started in all 18 games this season, along with Flaherty, Dunston and senior guard Siera Thompson. New to the starting lineup is freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick, who is quickly becoming one of Thome’s biggest allies on the court.
“I trust her,” Gondrezick said. “I trust all my teammates. I know one thing that I do well is getting the ball to my teammates to make everyone else around me better —something (Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico) stresses all the time.
“It allows Thome to be visible and present; it definitely is a game changer in the interior.”
Yet, Minnesota’s offense is nothing to scoff at. The Golden Gophers hold two of the Big Ten’s top-11 scorers in guards Carlie Wagner (tied for eighth) and Kenisha Bell (11th). Wagner and Bell are averaging 18.2 points per game and 17.3, respectively.
This is Barnes Arico’s fifth season as head coach, and her record at home is an impressive 59-22. The key to this season’s success has been its ability to dominate competition in the first 10 minutes of the second half. To date, the Wolverines have outscored opponents, 229-108, in that time margin.
But as far as Barnes Arico is concerned for this game—and future games — she’s repeating one mantra about the team’s performance.
“Keep it going. Just keep it going.”