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Michigan difference appeals to Katelynn Flaherty

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Katelynn Flaherty

Ann Arbor – Katelynn Flaherty could have played for any number of women’s college basketball powers coming out of high school, but she picked Michigan to try to make the Wolverines into a Big Ten championship contender.

Flaherty wanted to lead Michigan on an NCAA tournament run, as well.

She will get those opportunities now, as the Wolverines compete in the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis later this week, then the NCAA tournament soon after.

Flaherty is averaging 20 points and has led the Wolverines to a 22-8 record (11-5 Big Ten) and No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament. They have a double-bye and will possibly have a rematch with Michigan State in Friday night’s quarterfinal.

“One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to finish top four in the Big Ten and to make the NCAA tournament,” said Flaherty, a 5-foot-7 junior guard from New Jersey who was voted All-Big Ten first-team. “We came up short (NCAA tournament) my first two years so I think this is just exciting. Maybe not going (in past seasons) could be a good thing because when we play in it we won’t look past any team and we'll come in with a lot of energy.”

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico had been recruiting Flaherty when Barnes Arico was at St. John’s.

“So I had a relationship with her for a long time,” said Flaherty of Barnes Arico, who is now in her fifth season at Michigan and on Monday was named Big Ten coach of the year. “It just seemed like a great place academically and athletically. I didn’t want to go somewhere that was already established. I wanted to do something different. To be in this position this year, it kind of shows that everything has worked out.”

Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico named Big Ten coach of the year

Flaherty was offered by No. 5 South Carolina, No. 14 Louisville and No. 20 Kentucky.

“I visited Kentucky, Louisville, South Carolina -- a lot of them were top-10, top-20 programs -- but (Michigan) was just different, and I’m so happy I made this decision." Flaherty said. "I feel I’ve grown as a person and a player, and I’m not sure I would have done that anywhere else.”

Michigan was ranked as high as No. 20 in the Associated Press poll this season before dropping three of its final four regular-season games to fall out of the rankings.

Still, the Wolverines have matched a school-record for wins in a season and had a 14-1 home record, with its lone loss against MSU, 86-68 on Feb. 19, ending a 21-game winning streak at the Crisler Center.

Michigan is averaging 78.3 points and ranks in the top 10 nationally in field-goal percentage (.473) and first in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (.395), with Flaherty connecting on 37.2 percent of her long-range shots.

Flaherty credits freshman Kysre Gondrezick (14.9 points) for helping to open things up for her. Hallie Thome, a 6-5 sophomore, is an inside threat, averaging 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 63.4 percent from the field.

Gondrezick, who was Miss Basketball in the state of Michigan last year, is shooting 43.9 percent on 3-pointers (69-of-157).

“It definitely spreads the court out, especially for Hallie inside, and when Hallie’s doubled you have two weapons on the outside being able to hit shots,” said Flaherty of Gondrezick. “Kysre passes well and can drive well off the bounce, so it really brings a different look to our team. Last year, it was kind of a struggle; sometimes they could double a lot more. Now I think it really spreads it out and gives Siera (Thompson) more open looks and puts a lot less pressure on her as a point guard, so she’s a great addition to our team.

“Really, it’s a difference for me of not getting double-teamed this year. Sometimes I’ll have someone face-guard me, so that’s still an adjustment for me. But she’s (Gondrezick) a weapon where she can put up 20 or Hallie can put up 20, so we have a lot of weapons. And I feel I’ve done a better job of passing, keeping my head up and getting my teammates involved more, especially when things aren’t going my way.”

Senior point guard Siera Thompson has averaged 7.8 points and has a 3-to-1 ratio in assists-to-turnovers, a reason the Wolverines will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in her career.

Big Ten women’s tournament

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

All games on BTN except championship game, which is on ESPN2

Wednesday

No. 12 Nebraska (7-21, 3-13) vs. No. 13 Illinois (8-21, 3-13), 1:30 p.m.

No. 11 Wisconsin (8-21, 3-13) vs. No. 14 Rutgers (6-23, 3-13), 4 p.m.

Thursday

No. 8 Iowa (17-12, 8-8) vs. No. 9 Northwestern (19-10, 8-8), noon

No. 5 Purdue (19-11, 10-6) vs. 12-13 winner, 2:30 p.m.

No. 7 Penn State (19-9, 9-7) vs. No. 10 Minnesota (14-15, 5-11), 6:30 p.m.

No. 6 Michigan State (19-10, 9-7) vs. 11-14 winner, 9 p.m.

Friday

No. 1 Ohio State (25-5, 15-1) vs. 8-9 winner, noon

No. 4 Indiana (20-9, 10-6) vs. 5-12/13 winner, 2:30 p.m.

No. 2 Maryland (27-2, 15-1) vs. 7-10 winner, 6:30 p.m.

No. 3 Michigan (22-8, 11-5) vs. 6-11/14 winner, 9 p.m.

Saturday

Semifinals, 4 and 6:30 p.m.

Sunday

Championship, 7 p.m.