Hitting 3-pointers central to Wolverines’ recent and future success
Sometimes, the shots just aren’t falling. Many teams can withstand rough spells if they’re at an easier point in the schedule or have favorable matchups, but the Michigan women’s basketball team was not that lucky.
In their two December losses against No. 8 Florida State and No. 12 Maryland, the Wolverines put up two of their worst 3-point shooting performances of the season, going 3-for-17 and 1-for-12 from beyond the arc, respectively. And with matchups against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State — as well as a rematch against the Terrapins — not far away, Michigan needed to find its shooting rhythm again.
Following the first Maryland game, Penn State provided that opportunity. The Nittany Lions allow 70.1 points per game — tied for 80th in the country — and their opponents shoot a combined 34.1 percent from three, tied for 275th in the country.
The Wolverines seized the opportunity, shooting 8-for-19 on 3-pointers in an 82-48 victory over Penn State. Perhaps most crucially, junior forward Hailey Brown shot 3-for-6, after shooting a combined 1-for-11 the previous two games.
“I think it’s more of a confidence thing,” Brown said. “At the end of the day I feel like I had to get more reps up before practice and after practice. It was up to me. So I think I came into (the Penn State game) confident in the work I’ve been doing since the Maryland game.”
That confidence made a major difference against the Spartans on Sunday, in a game where Michigan needed to score well to win. Michigan State scored a respectable 69 points on 45.6 percent shooting, but it was no match for the Wolverines’ 89-point spectacle. Yet again, Brown was right in the middle of it, shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in the win.
But the 3-point shooting didn’t end with Brown. Sophomore guard Amy Dilk, senior guard Akienreh Johnson and sophomore forward Emily Kiser each added a 3-pointer. This strong team shooting performance helped Michigan to space the floor, creating opportunities for Dilk and sophomore forward Naz Hillmon to attack the basket.
“When we miss (key 3-pointers), it’s a different kind of game,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “But (against Michigan State) we made them, and that’s something our team works on every day, is making those shots and having the confidence to take those shots in big games.”
Hitting threes against a poor defensive team like Penn State isn’t particularly impressive. One individual strong game against Michigan State doesn’t mean much, either. But the two consecutive solid performances — especially coming off a cold streak — are a good sign for the Wolverines moving forward. With the Jan. 12 rematch against Maryland looming after Thursday’s game against Ohio State, Michigan will need to stay in this offensive rhythm if it wants to pull off the upset at home.
If not, it’s looking at another disappointing game against a top opponent.