The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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56 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 2016-17 BASKETBALL PREVIEW BY LELAND MITCHINSON L ast season Michigan made strides towards building a team that could finish in the upper echelon of the confer‑ ence, particularly on the offensive end. The Wolverines ended the regular season with a 19‑13 record before go‑ ing on a run in the WNIT, winning four games leading up to a loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the semifinals of the tournament. While failing to reach the NCAA Tournament was a disappointment for the team, the ex‑ tra five games in the WNIT allowed the young squad to gain valuable postseason experience. "I think just going that far into the season kind of helps you mentally and physically prepare for if you do go to the NCAA Tournament, you can win games like that," junior guard Katelynn Flaherty said. "Just because you're used to playing when everyone else is done and you keep pushing your body further and fur‑ ther into the season." Head coach Kim Barnes Arico, who is entering her fifth season at the helm, again leads the Wolverines. Her four seasons of 20‑plus wins is a school record, and with 17 more victories she will become the second coach in program history with 100 career wins. Barnes Arico's chances of reaching that landmark look good with both double‑digit scorers from a year ago returning. Flaherty and sophomore center Halle Thome scored 22.1 and 14.4 points per game, respectively. The combination of Flaherty's deadly outside shot and Thome's size un‑ der the basket helped the Wolverines set school records in points (78.6 per game), assists (606), field goal per‑ centage (47.8) and three‑point field goal percentage (39.8). With Thome and Flaherty return‑ ing, along with the third‑leading scorer from a year ago, senior guard Siera Thompson, the Wolverines bring back 82 percent of their scoring from last year. Thompson will be the main source of senior leadership this season while she directs things from the point guard position. "I think I've been growing since I've been here, but I have to find dif‑ ferent ways to get better every year, and that's kind of the challenge I have," Thompson said. "Last year if I was talking a certain amount, just stepping it up more this year, just stepping everything up a little bit." Michigan will no doubt be a high‑ scoring team again this year — the Wolverines ranked sixth nationally in field goal percentage and 11th in points per game — but in order to outperform their finish from a year ago they will have to develop defen‑ sively to compete at the top of the Big Ten. Thompson was the team's best de‑ fender a year ago and will likely be again this year. Thome has worked on her strength in the post in order to become a better defender under the basket; too often last year she was outmuscled by a player she had a height advantage on, leading to offensive rebounds and extra posses‑ sions for the other team. "Last year I would think about scoring more than defense, but now I'm kind of taking the aspect of see‑ ing if I score on offense but I don't get a stop on defense they kind of X each other out, so it's not worth any‑ thing," Thome said. "So this year I'm making sure I box out, get a rebound and then sprint the court and get a layup on the other end." One thing that hindered the Wol‑ verines' defensive abilities last sea‑ son were foul problems. Some games Thome spent the majority of the first half on the bench because she had picked up too many early fouls, and foul trouble kept Thompson off the court in the Big Ten Tournament game against Iowa. The depth of the team this year should help combat some of the foul issues the team had a year ago. Barnes Arico noted last year she used only six or seven players in the ro‑ tation during a game, but will use more this year. That will mean players like sopho‑ more guards Boogie Brozoski and Ni‑ cole Munger will have an increased role. Brozoski showed impressive de‑ fensive abilities last season, racking up 30 steals and three blocks in 34 games played, though she struggled with fouls at times last season, be‑ ing called for 53. Munger showed good shooting ability when given the opportunity last season, knocking down 37.0 percent from three‑point range as a freshman. Both players should have an opportunity to show off their development throughout the season. "I've been trying to work on get‑ ting to the basket and trying to be‑ come more versatile," Munger said. "But it is hard with all the big kids in the Big Ten, so trying to develop more of a mid‑range kind of game, where if they close out really hard, I have a one dribble pull‑up or a one‑ dribble‑and‑a‑dish to find the next player." If Munger and the rest of the team have been able to develop enough to take some of the pressure off of Fla‑ herty and Thome, this team will be nearly impossible to stop from a de‑ fensive standpoint. The Big Ten had enough trouble limiting the Wolver‑ ines' offense last year, so that would make a dangerous offense even more potent. A COMPLEMENT TO THOME Though Thome had tremendous scoring success last year, one thing that hindered her was how many double teams she had to fight through once teams decided to try to take her out of the offense. Much of her opponents' success double‑ teaming her was due to the fact that there was not a threatening second option in the post. Then‑senior Kelsey Mitchell was often the player paired with Thome, and though Mitchell often had good position under the basket she stood THE NEXT STEP Michigan Aims To Get Back To The NCAA Tournament Junior guard Katelynn Flaherty has led the team in scoring each of the last two sea- sons and is the second-fastest player in program history to reach 1,000 points. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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