UM women need victory to boost NCAA chances

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico is in her fifth season.

Michigan will take the court at noon today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for its Big Ten women’s basketball tournament second-round game against Iowa.

And, the Wolverines need to have a long stay in the tournament if they have any hopes of playing in the NCAA Tournament later this month.

Michigan, with a 17-12 record and RPI of 68, enters as the No. 8 seed with a 9-9 conference record. It’s playing No. 9 seed Iowa, with the winner moving on to face top-seeded and No. 5 Maryland in a noon quarterfinal on Friday.

But, the only team the Wolverines are focused on is Iowa (18-12, 8-10) which has won three of its last four.

The teams split the regular-season series.

Iowa is in rebuilding mode after an impressive 26-8 season a year ago which ended with a Sweet 16 loss to Baylor.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico feels good about the direction the Wolverines are going despite the regular season ending with a 72-50 loss at Rutgers Sunday.

“We started 4-and-7 (in league) and finished at 9-and-9 so I think we’re a team that’s still improving and coming on strong late in the year, winning five of the last seven games,” Barnes Arico said. “I think we’re a young team that’s continuing to improve and we’re excited about the tournament and the chance to play Iowa again.

“We’re led by a sophomore who is one of the top scorers in the country in Katelynn Flaherty, who had a tremendous season for us as well as a freshman in Hallie Thome and both of them I think are two of the top players in our league so I think that speaks volumes to our team moving forward.”

Flaherty, who averages 22.3 points, ranking seventh nationally, was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches and media. She has made 40.4 percent of her 3-point attempts (88-of-218).

Thome, a 6-foot-5 freshman center, is averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, shooting 64.2 percent from the field, earning a spot on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.

Kelsey Mitchell (Inkster), a 6-0 forward, is healthy and contributing after missing her first two seasons due to knee and foot injuries.

Thome and Mitchell will have to play at their best for the Wolverines to defeat an Iowa team which has size in 6-3 sophomore Chase Coley, 6-3 freshman Megan Gustafson and 6-0 junior guard Ally Disterhoft (16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds) who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.

Michigan defeated the Hawkeyes 82-75 in Ann Arbor Jan. 7 with Flaherty scoring 24 and Mitchell contributing 15 points and 11 rebounds, making 7-of-11 shots. The Wolverines held a 32-29 rebounding advantage, 11-8 on the offensive end.

Michigan played a solid first half in Iowa City, trailing 42-41 at halftime Jan. 28 before falling 85-69, getting outrebounded 23-16 during the second half, 9-6 on the offensive glass.

Again, Flaherty had a big scoring night (31 points), but was limited to just seven second-half points.