Before Tuesday’s game against Michigan, IU Coach Teri Moren said she knew her team had to focus on shutting down the versatile Wolverine offense.
With junior guard Katelynn Flaherty able to pour in upwards of 20 points per game on any given night and the six-foot-five sophomore center Hallie Thome able to dominate opponents down low, it would take a complete and balanced defensive effort for the Hoosiers to come out on top.
Despite a strong closing effort and keeping Michigan’s 3-point shooters largely in check, IU couldn’t stop Michigan in the paint. Thome scored 21 points on nine-of-11 shooting in the 78-74 win against the Hoosiers. Junior forward Jillian Dunston added a four-of-four performance from the field to go along with nine rebounds.
Thome dominated in the first half as she hit all six of her shots and scored 15 points. The Hoosiers did switch up their defensive strategy with Thome after her quick start and wound up forcing her to commit seven turnovers by the end of the night. However, with senior forward Jenn Anderson and junior forward Amanda Cahill both in foul trouble, IU’s undersized forwards were unable to disrupt Thome’s shots.
“We made some adjustments. We trapped her a little bit in the first half and just threw her out of her rhythm,” IU assistant coach Rhet Wierzba said on the IU radio postgame show on WHCC 105.1 FM. “I think probably the bigger difference was we didn’t let her get transition layups, but when Jenn gets in foul trouble in the first half, it limits our size in the post.”
Offensively, the Hoosiers held their own in the paint. Anderson recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards. IU even scored more points in the paint than the Wolverines, but Michigan used 3-pointers and free throws to make up the gap.
“We were able to go to her in the post, and she was able to be aggressive and attack them as opposed to just Thome going at us,” Wierzba said of Anderson. “We were able to go right back at them.”
However, with the Hoosiers playing from behind for most of the game, Thome and Dunston’s efficient and timely scoring helped keep the Wolverines ahead. Seemingly every time the Hoosiers went on a mini-run of four or six points, Thome would answer with a layup or and-one of her own to stop the bleeding.
If the opposing centers were on the court for an equal amount of time, the game might have swung in IU’s favor. However, Thome was able to keep herself out of foul trouble and finished with just two fouls in 36 minutes of play. Anderson finished with four fouls and was only able to play 25 minutes.
IU’s next opponent features Northwestern forward Nia Coffey, who averages more than 11 rebounds per game despite being listed at six-foot-one, indicating post defense will be equally important Saturday if the Hoosiers hope to earn a road trip spilt.
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