Katelynn Flaherty is a leader.
Last year, she led her team in scoring. Earlier this season, she led herself to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. And on Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ohio she led her team to victory, scoring 31 points as the Michigan women’s basketball team defeated Ohio, 74-61.
The game, though, was much closer than the score entailed.
The 25th-ranked Wolverines struggled with turnovers from the get-go, as Flaherty had the ball stolen on the team’s first possession. Michigan finished the game with 23 total turnovers— a considerable amount when compared to the Bobcats’ 14 turnovers.
Neither team had the upper hand in the first quarter. At one point, junior guard Nicole Munger drained a 3-pointer to spark a 7-0 run that established a five-point lead for the Wolverines. But Ohio quickly answered to keep it close. It was very much a back and forth ball game throughout the opening quarter, and Michigan had a 19-16 lead at the end.
The second quarter was no different. Both teams continued to play tug-of-war, and the game was tied at 31 at halftime.
It was not the first half the Wolverines had hoped for. In addition to the team’s turnovers, Munger — who is typically a reliable shooter — struggled to make shots. She went 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, and finished the night shooting 2-for-12. Junior center Hallie Thome faced the same struggles, taking just two shots in the first half.
Then things started to change.
Michigan rebounded well from the start, and it finally helped the Wolverines get ahead in the third quarter. Thome and senior forward Jillian Dunston led the rebounding effort, finishing with 13 and 14 rebounds, respectively.
The Wolverines outrebounded the Bobcats 50 to 31, and it became a major difference maker in the end.
“I was really proud of the way we rebounded the basketball,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on WTKA. “We talked about, all week, how rebounding really is effort — second effort, third effort — and, you know, we put Hallie Thome up to that challenge and she really responded. Jillian Dunston was tremendous. Just really proud of the effort they gave, and that did help with the turnover issue.”
Thome was more successful in scoring after halftime, as well. She still struggled to find scoring chances, but was efficient nonethless — finishing with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
“It was a great effort in the second half,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought we did a better job in the second half of moving the ball to find the open person.”
Michigan led by three heading into the fourth quarter. Then Flaherty took control.
Flaherty did what she is best at doing and what her team needed her to do — she scored. She shined in the final quarter, scoring 18 points — including two 3-pointers — to take control of the game. The Wolverines outscored Ohio, 25-15, and it was a deciding factor.
“We just want the ball in her hands,” Barnes Arico said. “We are fortunate to have one of the best scorers in the country on our team in Katelynn, and she really was able to close games out, and we’ve shown the ability to do that which is definitely a positive for us moving forward.”
Michigan’s turnovers could have been detrimental. Instead, the Wolverines still relied on a consistent rebounding effort, and Flaherty’s fourth-quarter run took care of the rest.