Ann Arbor — It’s not that Katelynn Flaherty doesn’t enjoy playing at the Crisler Center, she just wants to know what it’s like to play on the big stage of the NCAA Tournament.
Flaherty, Michigan’s all-time leading scorer, had 17 points in a 71-65 victory over No. 13 ranked and three-time defending Big Ten champion Maryland (22-6, 11-4) Thursday night in what she plans on being her final game at Crisler.
Last season, Michigan was ranked during the final month of the regular season before a late slump resulted in the Wolverines playing and winning the WNIT championship.
The Wolverines (21-8, 10-6) were ranked No. 13 earlier this month before losing four of five, starting with an overtime loss to Purdue after having the Boilermakers end regulation on a 16-0 run.
Michigan led from start to finish in Thursday’s victory which gave the Wolverines their first win over Maryland — ending an 0-5 slide — and second major win of the season. They defeated No. 8 Ohio State 84-75 Jan. 16 in Columbus. They should be good enough to avoid another WNIT appearance.
“Coming off the floor Coach (Kim Barnes) Arico said this better be the last one (home game),” said Flaherty, who joined physical forward Jillian Dunston (five points, seven rebounds) to become the winningest class (90) in program history. “To go to the NCAA Tournament our senior year will be awesome, just to get that exposure, I think we deserve it this year. We beat Ohio State when they were eighth and Maryland was 13th, so I think this will look good to the (NCAA Tournament) committee.”
Said Dunston: “This is double special for me because it was senior night and I grew up in Maryland, watching Maryland and was a big fan of them. I wasn’t really recruited there so for us to beat them, such a highly touted team, at a time when we really needed to do it, everything fell into place.”
Michigan got off to a great start to take a 12-point lead (30-18) early in the second quarter behind the strong play of Flaherty, along with Akienreh Johnson (17 points, 8 rebounds), who came off the bench to score six during a six-minute stretch.
But, Michigan’s turnover problems continued with seven miscues in the second quarter to help Maryland pull within 35-33 at halftime.
Still, Maryland was within 56-55 and had the ball for the chance to take the lead with just under five minutes left, but failed to capitalize.
Johnson, a 6-0 sophomore, came up with several big plays down the stretch, scoring off a outback for a 58-55 lead, finding Flaherty for a 3-pointer for a 63-59 cushion and making a 3-pointer of her own with 1:40 left for a 66-61 advantage. Johnson has back-to-back games of 19 and 17 points after averaging 1.7 points through the first 27 games.
Michigan had just two fourth-quarter turnovers.
Maryland, which entered the night with the nation’s third best 3-point shooting team, was 0-for-9 from deep range while Michigan was 6-for-10.
Junior guard Nicole Munger scored 15 and 6-5 junior Hallie Thome, 13 points for Michigan.
Sophomore guard Kaila Charles scored 27 for Maryland.