Deja Church has ice in her veins.
The Wolverines trailed the Cornhuskers, 59-62, with a little over seven seconds remaining in regulation. They had one final chance at a comeback after calling a timeout. Nebraska played tight defense, and the clock ticked away as Michigan couldn’t find a good scoring chance. Church received a pass in the corner, but got fouled while shooting a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left. With the game on the line, she headed to the line.
She was ready.
Church drained all three free-throws to tie the game up, and shortly after, the contest was headed to overtime.
“Impressive. I think that says something about that kid,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico to WTKA. “Holy cow. I don’t know if anybody could have done that. That is some serious pressure.”
In the extra period, the game was tied at 64 when junior center Hallie Thome made two free-throws to give the Wolverines the lead. The No. 23 Michigan women’s basketball team (4-2 Big Ten, 15-4 overall) then pulled away, defeating the Cornhuskers (3-2, 12-6) on the road Saturday night, 69-64.
The first half of the contest was an offensive battle. The Wolverines came out strong, led by senior guard Katelynn Flaherty who finished the night with 26 points. She found the basket with ease early on, but Nebraska did the same, and it was a close matchup.
Midway through the opening stanza Michigan’s defense picked up the slack by going to the press. This proved to be effective, causing problems for the Cornhuskers and helping the Wolverines to a 9-0 run. Michigan led 30-23 heading into the second quarter.
Nebraska cut into the deficit right away, though. The Cornhuskers caused troubles for the Wolverines and went on a 6-0 run to bring the game within one, two minutes into the frame.
Just moments after, Flaherty created separation from her defender with a crossover and calmly drained a deep 3-pointer from the right side, acting like it was no big deal. But it was a big deal. That triple made Flaherty Michigan’s all-time leading scorer, man or woman, as she passed Glen Rice’s record of 2,442 points.
The rest of the half was a shootout with both sides shooting close to 60 percent from the field. The offenses excelled while the defenses stayed quiet, and the Wolverines led 48-44 at the break.
“We came out scoring on fire in the beginning of the game,” Barnes Arico said, “but we didn’t get the stops we needed to get.”
All of the offensive skill must have been used up by the intermission, though, because both teams looked sloppy throughout the second half. There was a lack of coordination within the offenses, as the two sides struggled to take care of the ball. Michigan had 16 turnovers in the second half while Nebraska had 10. The two teams combined for just nine points in the third quarter, and the Wolverines had a 53-48 lead at the end of the stanza.
Following back-to-back 3-pointers from Cornhusker guard Taylor Kissinger, the game was tied at 56 mid-way through the fourth frame. Soon after, Nebraska took its first lead of the game, but failed to seal the deal.
“In the second half, we slowed down and played at a really, really slow pace and weren’t able to score the basketball,” Barnes Arico said. “It was a game of two halves, but Nebraska gave us a great game.”
Though Flaherty made history and the Wolverines managed to win in overtime, it was not a pretty performance. Michigan’s offense finished the night with a season-high 26 turnovers, which could have been deadly. The Wolverines will need to improve in this area moving forward, because other Big Ten teams won’t be as forgiving.
“We didn’t play our best,” Barnes Arico said. “But we dodged a bullet, that’s for sure.”