Nolan and Sidor prove themselves as competent backup point guards

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 8:18pm

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Dominick Sokotoff/Daily

When sophomore guard Danielle Rauch suffered a hand injury in practice last week, the Michigan women’s basketball team had a crucial role to fill.

Besides her starting role, she shifted over to point guard when sophomore Amy Dilk took a breather, and the Wolverines didn’t have an obvious solution to fill that hole.

Even with Rauch healthy, Dilk consistently played at least 35 minutes in close games, but Rauch provided a safety net in case Dilk couldn’t play her usual minutes. Rauch wasn’t as much of an offensive threat as Dilk, but she took care of the ball, committing just 16 turnovers in 21 games, which earned her Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico’s trust and a starting spot when senior forward Kayla Robbins went down with a torn ACL. 

Thursday against Purdue, the Wolverines had no need for a backup point guard.

Dilk distributed the ball as well as she had all season — tallying eight assists — and stayed out of foul trouble. As a result, she played all 40 minutes, and Barnes Arico knew that as long as Dilk played like she did Thursday, nearly 40 minutes a game would become the norm for her.

“She better rest up tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re gonna need her for a few minutes on Monday as well.”

But Monday against Minnesota, Dilk got into foul trouble and only played 30 minutes. With 7:46 left in the second quarter, she picked up her second foul, and freshman Maddie Nolan got the first crack at earning the backup point guard role.

When Nolan entered the starting lineup following Rauch’s injury, she emphasized wanting to replicate certain aspects of Rauch’s game, including limiting turnovers and getting the ball to Michigan’s best scorers — both of which she did effectively on Monday.

On her first offensive possession running the point, Nolan made it clear that she could handle the stage. She made smart passes around the perimeter, forcing the Golden Gophers’ defense to stay strong for most of the shot clock, before swinging a pass from the top of the arc to senior guard Akienreh Johnson, who drove past her defender and made a layup.

Twenty seconds later, Nolan grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed it up the floor before finding junior forward Hailey Brown in the paint for another layup — a play that looked like that of an experienced point guard, not one who was playing her first college minutes at the position.

She finished with five assists and only one turnover, which came when she attempted to save a deflected pass from going out of bounds.

“Having a lot of experience around someone who hasn’t had as much experience with them just helps a lot,” Nolan said. “They’re gonna help pick you up and they’re gonna help teach you and learn from that mistake that you made.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Dilk committed her fourth foul and, again, had to sit for a few minutes. This time, in addition to Nolan, freshman guard Michelle Sidor got the chance to play point guard for a couple possessions. 

While her impact didn’t show up in the box score as much as Nolan’s, on her first possession running the point, Sidor found sophomore forward Naz Hillmon with a bounce pass to her left, allowing Hillmon to free herself from a defender for an open layup, which she missed. Sidor also took care of the ball — she didn’t commit a single turnover.

Most nights, Dilk will still play close to 40 minutes. As long as she continues to play as well as she has — 41 points, 22 assists and just eight turnovers over the last three games — and stays out of foul trouble, the Wolverines won’t have much of a need for a backup point guard.

But Monday, both Nolan and Sidor showed that if Dilk needs a break, they can be counted on to run Michigan’s offense.