Second-half Baylor surge ends Michigan women’s NCAA run

Chad Conine
Special to The Detroit News

Waco, Texas — For about 23 minutes on Sunday evening, the Michigan women’s basketball team played like a squad that could shock Baylor on its home court.

Then the Lady Bears showed why they’re the No. 2-ranked team in the country and the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Region of this NCAA Tournament.

Baylor swatted away the Wolverines in the third quarter and went on to an 80-58 victory in a second-round contest at the Ferrell Center.

In doing so, the Lady Bears (33-1) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 10th consecutive season.

Michigan (23-10) made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. But the loss to the heavily-favored Lady Bears ended the career of senior point guard Katelynn Flaherty, the school’s all-time leading scorer.

BOX SCORE: Baylor 80, Michigan 58

Flaherty finished with 18 points, six rebound and five assists, while junior center Hallie Thome led the Wolverines with 22 points.

“I haven’t really gotten a chance to think about it even this whole season when I surpassed those records,” Flaherty said. “I mean, I made the best decision coming to Michigan. I would never change that. I love my coach, I love Hallie and my teammates. It’s a great school.”

All five of Baylor’s starters finished in double digits scoring, led by forward Lauren Cox, who posted a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Baylor’s 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.

Baylor’s athleticism showed up on the defensive end during the game’s crucial stretch in the third quarter. The Lady Bears blocked four shots as they held Michigan scoreless for more than five minutes, allowing Baylor to go on a 13-0 run.

Although Flaherty ended the Wolverines’ scoring drought by nailing a 3-pointer at the 1:53 mark of the third quarter, Baylor wouldn’t give up momentum. The Lady Bears came up with a pair of steals that led to fast-break buckets and a 63-46 lead going to the fourth quarter.

“They wore us down for sure, no question about it,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “I thought we battled and kind of hung tough and really fought and really tried to rebound in the first half. And I thought they really wore us down physically.”

Michigan led for more than five minutes of the first quarter, extending its advantage to 19-14 when Flaherty nailed a 3-pointer with 2:02 left in the period.

But Baylor answered with a 13-0 run that extended from the first into the second quarter. Baylor guard Juicy Landrum capped the spurt with a 3-pointer that put the Lady Bears in front 27-19 with 8:02 left before the break.

The Wolverines went inside to counter Baylor’s run. Thome, who led Michigan with 18 points in the first half, scored 10 in the second quarter. But Baylor still led by eight at the break.

Michigan committed 12 turnovers in the first half and Baylor turned them into 20 points on the other end.