Dilk shows she can fill Leigha Brown's void
Junior guard Amy Dilk received a pass at half court with the defense pressed against her. Sophomore guard Maddie Nolan was getting hot, and junior forward Naz Hillmon is all but automatic in the paint, but Dilk wanted to set an aggressive tone herself.
With the ball at the top of the key, Dilk sliced through four Wisconsin defenders, drove all the way to the basket and finished with a left-handed, and-1 layup. She converted on the free throw to cap off an impressive possession.
Dilk flexed both arms and let out the huge smile of a player making a statement. Dilk was far from the most prominent story of the game, with eight points, four rebounds and seven assists. But in one play, Dilk showed that she can and already is filling the void for junior wing Leigha Brown — sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.
It took three games for Michigan to find its identity without Brown. But it all came together in the dominant win against the Badgers on Jan. 14, in large part thanks to Dilk’s ability to control the flow of the game.
“(Dilk) is such a great point guard, and she’s capable of affecting the game in so many ways,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the Wolverines’ win over Nebraska on Jan. 7. “She recognized that we needed her ability to get in the lane and to take some pull-ups to hit some shots to pass on the pass on down and on. She stepped up and did a great job.”
Dilk isn’t averaging the flashy numbers Brown is, but what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is Dilk’s ball-handling ability and increasingly aggressive offensive play that has proven vital in maintaining the Wolverines’ unbeaten streak. In the three games without Brown, Dilk is averaging almost five assists per game.
Since Brown has been sidelined, Dilk has also been averaging over 33 minutes a game. Although her turnovers have ticked up slightly in Brown’s absence, she has taken over a much larger share of running the offense. Given more time to control the game with the ball in her hands, Dilk has shown to be the best floor general the Wolverines have.
“Just staying aggressive and keep playing my game and keep taking the open shots and not getting discouraged,” Dilk said after the win over the Cornhuskers.
The Wolverines have adopted the next-player-up mentality in large part due to the unusual circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Michigan had only eight players available for two games, but Brown played in those games, both blowout victories. Brown missed the next three games and even with the rest of the roster back, her absence was evident.
Dilk doesn’t fit the ordinary next-player-up mold. She was the second-leading scorer on the team last year and has played the most minutes this year of anyone besides Hillmon, so her success is no surprise. She’s just been hidden in the shadows of an unbeaten team off to its best start in program history.
But with Brown out, Dilk has been able to shine — showing her improvements from last season and ability to control the floor and game.
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