The Michigan women’s basketball team was able to redeem one of its early-season losses from last year this weekend, but it couldn’t make up for both. After crushing Pittsburgh — a team that beat the Wolverines last season — on Thursday, the team couldn’t produce the same result Sunday against Princeton.
Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty put up an impressive 33 points against the Tigers, but Michigan didn’t get much help from anyone else and fell on the road, 74-57.
The loss is Michigan’s first of the season but second straight to Princeton (6-1). Last year, the Tigers beat the Wolverines (7-1) by 30 in Ann Arbor, the team’s worst loss of the season.
Matching up with Flaherty for the second time in as many years, Princeton looked fully prepared to isolate the star guard. The Tigers, though, didn’t need to rely on defense, because the Wolverines were doing all the work for them.
Michigan’s Achilles’ heel was a poor shooting performance in the first half. Excluding Flaherty, the Wolverines shot 2-for-19 in the half, and until five minutes remained in the second quarter, Flaherty was the only Wolverine to make a field goal.
Playing catch-up all game, Michigan managed to bump its shooting up to 36 percent by the end, but it looked nothing like the squad that was averaging 87.9 points per game before heading to New Jersey.
“We couldn’t really get anything going on the offensive end, so I thought maybe if we changed the defense and pressure them a little bit maybe we’d be able to get anything off of turnovers,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “It really didn’t happen.”
The Wolverines turned on the press in the second quarter, but getting Princeton to turn the ball over was far more difficult than it was against previous opponents like Oral Roberts and Pittsburgh.
Led by guard Michelle Miller’s 24 points and eight rebounds, Princeton’s starting five outperformed Michigan’s. Three of its starters ended with double digits, while Michigan’s second-leading scorer behind Flaherty was junior guard Siera Thompson, who had eight.
Michigan has just four scholarship upperclassmen, and its inexperience finally surfaced.
“We really looked young,” Barnes Arico said. “For the first time all year long we were really exposed.
“When I was in the locker room talking about the freshmen, I just see Katelynn Flaherty just shaking her head the entire time like ‘I was there. I understand what you’re going through. People beat me. People were physical.’ ”
Princeton shut down freshman center Hallie Thome, usually a reliable scorer. At 6-foot-5, she led the nation in field goal percentage with 76.7 percent prior to the weekend. But Thome struggled against the Tigers’ physically stronger frontcourt, tallying just three points while shooting 25 percent from the floor.
Michigan’s other key freshmen, guards Nicole Munger and Boogie Brozoski, combined for four points and five turnovers.
Two of the starters — senior guard Madison Ristovski and sophomore forward Jillian Dunston — failed to score at all.
It was an ugly loss, but Princeton was also Michigan’s first actual test, and the Wolverines couldn’t have expected another lopsided win like they had become accustomed to.