Sports Journalism Blog

By Ryan Gregory | @Ryan_Gregory_

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The Michigan Wolverines, led by junior center Hallie Thome and senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, proved to be too much for a young Penn State squad in a 77-48 second-round victory. The sixth-seeded Wolverines, 22-8, advanced to a quarterfinal game in the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament against third-seed Nebraska on Friday night.

The victory was the first for Michigan in the conference tournament since 2014. Michigan earned a chance to gain its first spot in a Big Ten semifinal game since 2001.

Thome, a second-team all-Big Ten selection, proved why she was one of the conference’s best. She finished with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, with nine rebounds and two blocks. Flaherty, a three-time first-team all-Big Ten selection, scored 21 points with five 3-point shots. Her career total of 2,721 points is the most in school history and second among active Big Ten players. Flaherty has scored 702 points this season, the third time in her career she has exceeded 700.

Michigan lost four of its last six regular-season games. But a victory over 13th-ranked Maryland, followed by a convincing second-round effort, has given the Wolverines a sense of momentum.

“I think we’re really coming together,” Flaherty said. “Our chemistry is building. We’ve had a lot of days to practice and focus on ourselves, so I think our offensive execution is getting a lot betrer.”

Penn State, 16-15, failed to reach the quarterfinal round for a fourth consecutive season. Since losing to Ohio State in the 2011 championship game, the Lady Lions have a record of 4-7 in conference tournament play.

By the end of the first half, Thome and Flaherty had each scored 14 points to combine for 28 of Michigan’s 32 points. Flaherty reached double figures for the 124th time in her career, Thome for the 87th.

The most obvious differential to describe Michigan’s dominance was Penn State’s inability to produce from beyond the 3-point line. In the first quarter, Penn State hoisted eight 3-point field goals and missed all of them. The first 3-point field goal made by the Nittany Lions came from Teniya Page on a buzzer beater before halftime. Penn State made just 2 of 13 3-point shots, equaling its fewest baskets from beyond the line this season.

A day earlier, Page, a first-team all-Big Ten selection, scored 38 points in the first-round victory over Illinois. Michigan limited Page to 12 points, six below her average.

Sophomore guard Jaida Travascio-Green, who averaged 11.8 points, did not score. Junior guard Amari Carter entered the game averaging 14.4 points and scored 8 on 3-of-10 shooting. left with 8on 1-6 shooting.

Junior forward Jaylen Williams recorded 6 blocks Thursday night, five of which came in the first half. She was tasked with guarding Thome and threw back two of her shots. The other four were imposed on guards driving in the lane. But Penn State was held to 36 percent shooting and trailed by as many as 32 points.

“It feels good to get one under our belt,” said Thome. “It helps us build confidence going further.”