Saturday afternoon in College Park, Md., the Michigan women’s basketball team faced its toughest opponent so far this season.
Despite putting up a fight, the Wolverines (11-6 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) ultimately fell, 83-69, to No. 9 Maryland (15-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten).
“So Maryland is a great basketball team — and especially at home,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told reporters after the game. “And I thought we matched up with them exceptionally well until late in the game.”
The first three quarters were even and Michigan only trailed by one, 53-52, heading into the fourth.
In the final frame, though, the Terrapins took full control.
It started with a successful jumper from forward Stephanie Jones. Freshman guard Amy Dilk got called for a foul on the play and Jones capitalized with the ensuing free throw.
On its next three offensive possessions, Maryland converted a layup followed by 3-pointers from guards Blair Watson and Taylor Mikesell. All the while, the Terrapins’ full-blown defensive press hindered the Wolverines, fueling an 11-4 run for Maryland.
Michigan trailed, 66-58, after Mikesell’s triple from the left wing and called a timeout. But in that timeout, the Wolverines couldn’t find an answer. Soon it was too late.
The Terrapins’ shooting success continued. They shot close to 77 percent from the field in the fourth quarter to finish the game 32-for-61 from the field. Mikesell and Watson led the way and finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
“We got tight and I think that we couldn’t get shots to fall,” Barnes Arico said. “We got some good looks. We didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well. I mean, I go through all the stats here and we’re pretty much balanced in everything except for shooting percentage.”
To start the contest, Michigan’s defense came out hot. The Wolverines troubled Maryland into 10 turnovers in the first stanza, and this fueled a 17-4 run to give them a 21-14 lead heading into the second.
But the Terrapins returned with an adequate response: 3-pointers. They soon made three triples to tie the game at 25. Their ball-control improved too as they finished the game with just five additional turnovers.
“Their shooters had some open looks,” Barnes Arico said. “They made some great extra passes to find their shooters.”
Senior center Hallie Thome excelled for her team to keep the game close. Whenever she got the ball early on, multiple defenders would swarm around her to make things difficult. However, she adjusted by employing quicker footwork and using her strength to her advantage. Thome led Michigan in scoring (25 points) and rebounding (10 rebounds).
“She did a tremendous job,” Barnes Arico said. “Her shot was blocked a number of times. … She’s special, and Maryland’s defense really disrupted her but didn’t stop her.”
Altogether, the Wolverines showed their skills on the big stage. The defense showed a lot of promise and the team won the rebounding battle as well. Against a top-10 team, though, it wasn’t quite enough.
“They’re a tough matchup. Their size, their length, disrupted us. The way they blocked shots early on really disrupted us,” Barnes Arico said. “… But I think overall it was really a great basketball game.”