Kent State’s bench went wild as guard Alexa Golden nailed a buzzer-beater to end the first quarter. The Michigan women’s basketball team’s bench remained quiet.
By the end of the opening frame, Michigan’s leading scorer hadn’t made any baskets. Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty was 0-for-3 on 3-point shots, and the Wolverines were down by 10.
That didn’t change much. The Wolverines’ outcome did. By the end of the day, Michigan recovered to notch a 54-41 victory over the Golden Flashes.
“I think that team did a great job of game planning and trying to limit Katelynn’s touches and make her work for everything else,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Some other people had to step up and try to make plays.”
That’s exactly what junior center Hallie Thome eventually did.
She had an awkward landing coming down from a rebound and was helped off the court — all while the Wolverines held their breath as they awaited her fate. Immediately after Thome was taken out, Kent State scored twice and began to take the lead.
They continued to score — while Michigan had no answer — throughout the duration of the first quarter and ended the frame ahead, 15-5.
But Thome reentered the game for the second quarter and made the first shot and a free throw — keying Michigan on a run to close the 10-point deficit with a taped-up ankle.
“I think that she knows that she’s an essential part of our team,” said freshman forward Hailey Brown. “It’s part of her character to want to be on the court and playing.”
With an injured Thome bringing Michigan within striking distance, Flaherty finally scored her first basket of the game with four minutes left in the frame.
A pass from Thome gave junior guard Nicole Munger a wide open 3-pointer to give the Wolverines the lead, 19-17. Munger's shot brought out the energy that Crisler had been lacking throughout the first half, as the crowd erupted when Munger gave the Wolverines their advantage.
Munger attributed the comeback to their defense.
“What we were saying to each other during the breaks and on the court was, 'Get stops because that’s the only thing we can control,' ” Munger said. “Our best offense is when it comes to our defense. If we can get a steal and go in transition or a big rebound and go in transition, we know that’ll lead us to easy buckets.”
The Wolverines scored two unanswered baskets to open out the second half, the first by Thome. Brown led the charge for the Wolverines at that point, as she had eight points at the four-minute mark of the third quarter. She was followed by Munger, Thome and Robbins, each with five. At that point in the game, Flaherty had only scored four. But her contributions came nonetheless.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Flaherty snuck a pass to Munger, who sunk a shot from beyond the arc and gave Michigan a 10-point lead to close out the frame.
The fourth quarter started off slowly, with no points scored in the first two minutes. But Thome finally broke the stalemate, and the Wolverines finished the game comfortably — holding a lead by nine or more points for the rest of the game.
And most impressively, the Wolverines did it all with Flaherty struggling.