As Michigan students began their winter breaks, the women’s basketball team was continuing to work in Ann Arbor, as American visited Crisler Center on Thursday afternoon.
But fortunately for the Wolverines, they didn’t have to work hard for too long. Michigan finished its last non-conference game in easy fashion, handling the Eagles, 82-33.
Early in the first quarter, it seemed like the Wolverines would hammer American down low. In the first minute alone, sophomore center Hallie Thome started the game with a layup and foul shot, before swatting a shot on the defensive end as well.
But to the Eagles’ misfortune, Thome — who notched 17 points and six rebounds — wasn’t the only one to find a rhythm. After failing to reach double figures for the first time this season against Vermont, junior guard Katelynn Flaherty responded with 17 points, shooting 3-for-4 from 3-point land.
Freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick was also key to the Wolverines’ victory, having perhaps her best game of the season. Gondrezick scored 19 points on efficient 7-for-11 shooting. But Gondrezick’s passing ability was where she really shined.
As a result of Boogie Brozoski’s departure, Gondrezick was given a chance to play point guard and she rose to the occasion — tallying a season-high six assists in the game. But whether it was tallied on the stat sheet or not, she was able to find her teammates in tight spaces and set up easy buckets.
“Kysre was phenomenal,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She just has so many things to her game. She’s a kid who’s capable of doing it all and I think we saw that tonight. She’s getting more and more comfortable as the season goes on and she’s gonna be a special player for us.”
Added Thome: “She plays at a different level. She wants to make people better as a facilitator, so that’s definitely exciting to see.”
On the defensive end, the Eagles struggled to muster any offense throughout the game, shooting just 29.2 percent from the field and hitting just two 3-pointers. American’s 33 points are the fewest allowed this season by the Wolverines.
Part of Michigan’s defensive success can be attributed to its aggressiveness. American was often caught telegraphing its passes and the Wolverines capitalized, stealing the ball 13 times. Michigan also held the advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Eagles, 41-23.
The Wolverines can also credit the success to their ability to execute the press and a new 2-3 zone defense, a scheme that Michigan is trying to implement prior to the beginnning of conference play.
“In the second half we worked on a lot of things that we know we’re gonna have to do moving forward to the Big Ten,” Gondrezick said. “We have to get better defensively, whether it’s man on man or zone covering.”
The 49-point win capped off an 11-3 non-conference record — Michigan’s best record since the 2012-13 season, when the Wolverines last made the NCAA Tournament.