Akienreh Johnson was sitting underneath the dryer in her hair salon when her phone rang. The name displayed on the screen was Kim Barnes Arico, Michigan’s coach. Immediately, she knew what the call was about — her petition to get a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA had been granted.
After 32 games and five months on a beat, you learn a lot about a team. What plays they run, what the rotation is, what their strengths and weaknesses are and even who the mom of the team is — senior guard Akienreh Johnson.
This week in Michigan basketball is depressing. COVID-19 has forced the NCAA and Michigan to stop all athletic events for the rest of the year. There’s not much else to it, other than depressing. Seniors won’t see their season off the way they want to. Neither will coaches or fans or other players.
It brings a finality to the season that no one wanted, forcing us to reflect on an almost-done women’s basketball team far before anyone ever wanted.
Two-and-a-half weeks ago, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico laughed as she held out her hand, pretending it was in an icebox. She was acting out sophomore guard Danielle Rauch’s squats as she tried to prevent her left hand from sweating while staying in shape.
Rauch broke her hand a day before Michigan’s Feb. 6 matchup against Purdue and missed the game because of her surgery that day.
Bones take six to eight weeks to heal.
Last Thursday against Nebraska, Rauch returned after just four.
INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan, for the second year in a row, stared down a chance to do something it had never done. No team, in the history of the program, has played in a Big Ten Tournament title game. For a program steeped in mediocrity, Saturday was an opportunity for the Wolverines to put their name down in history.
They gave it their best shot, but it hit the rim and bounced out.
Michigan (21-11 overall, 10-8 Big Ten) couldn’t buy a bucket, bowing out of the tournament in the semifinals for the second straight year, losing, 66-60, to Ohio State (21-11, 11-7).
INDIANAPOLIS — Danielle Rauch couldn’t keep the smile off her face. She stood, in the midst of a timeout huddle, one ear perched to listen to what Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. Other players hid their excitement behind stone faces, only occasionally letting a grin out.
Not the sophomore guard. She knew the game was over. Wrapped in maize and blue and tied with a bow, over.
INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan, up by four, faced a turning point. After a huge third quarter that turned a 10-point deficit into a six-point lead, Nebraska hit a pair of free throws to start the fourth quarter. The Wolverines needed an answer to hold onto the momentum.
Sophomore guard Amy Dilk’s pass was tipped as soon as it left her fingers, floating through the air into no man’s land. A turnover would be catastrophic in a game defined by momentum, but instead freshman guard Maddie Nolan found herself in the right spot, at the right time.