Though the Michigan women’s basketball team won the tip, Notre Dame scored first. Within the first five minutes, the Fighting Irish went up by four, and they remained in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the game.
While the Wolverines once held a four-point lead themselves in the first quarter, Notre Dame peaked in the fourth, taking a 25-point lead to finish with an 83-63 victory.
Going into the game Wednesday night, Michigan had two points of emphasis after its loss to Louisville: rebounds and turnovers.
“Great teams gotta be able to rebound and gotta be able to take care of the basketball,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We put both of those things together, and I think we can compete against the top teams.”
The Wolverines turned the ball over only once in the first half while pulling down 11 rebounds. Though Michigan took care of the ball, it had a difficult time shutting down the Irish.
Junior center Hallie Thome accredited the defensive woes to the offensive challenge put up by Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 20 points including four timely three-pointers.
“I think it wasn’t like fatigue physically, I think it was mentally— just always having to locate Arike and just be aware of where everyone is,” Thome said. “I think that we all realized that we needed to shut down Arike and not let her get the ball, so I think more of a mental fatigue of always having your eye on someone.”
Even with a 25-point deficit late in the game, Thome insisted Michigan never threw in the towel.
“No matter what the situation is, we’re giving it our all,” Thome said. “Even if we’re trying everything we can do and it’s not working then you have to put someone else in that position.”
Even senior guard Katelynn Flaherty—the Wolverine’s top scorer— was quiet in the offensive half as she was being double teamed for a majority of the game.
“I just think she didn’t have an open look the entire night. She was double-teamed every single time she came off a ball screen,” Barnes said. “They knew where she was in transition. She had contested shot after contested shot. So that’s difficult.”
Though the pressure on Flaherty was immense, Thome was confident in the ability of her team to rise to the occasion and fill in. Flaherty is a leader for the team, but there are other players who are capable of stepping up.
“We have other players, I know Katelynn will always go down in history as one of the best players at Michigan but basketball is a five person sport so other people have to step up, other people have to take different roles,” Thome said.
Despite the loss, Michigan saw how its strong play in the first half allowed optimism for future growth.
“I think we realized we can really hang with anyone if we do the little things and proceed to do the little things as the game goes on and don’t get mentally fatigued as the game goes on,” Thome said.