Michigan grabs 20th win against Wisconsin

Sunday, March 3, 2019 - 3:54pm

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Keemya Esmael/Daily

Last weekend, the Michigan women’s basketball team fell to its in-state rival, snapping a seven-game win streak.

“We thought our last game against Michigan State we weren’t tough enough,” said sophomore guard Deja Church. “And we weren’t satisfied with our result.”

So after a week of preparation, the Wolverines (11-7 Big Ten, 20-10 overall) looked to bounce back Sunday afternoon against Wisconsin (4-14, 13-17).

And they did just that, defeating the Badgers, 59-49, at home.

In their last time playing at Crisler Center, senior guard Nicole Munger and senior center Hallie Thome were pivotal for Michigan from the start. They helped the team clinch its 20th win and the No. 4 seed for the Big Ten Tournament.

In the first minute, Munger connected with Thome on a fast break, and she then converted a layup for the Wolverines’ first points of the game. Moments later, Thome found freshman guard Amy Dilk for another layup.

Thome and Munger continued to excel. By the first media timeout, halfway through the opening frame, Thome had notched six of her team’s eight points. The matchup remained up for grabs though, with Michigan leading by two.

After that timeout, the Wolverines brought the defensive press. This shook up the Badgers, and Munger quickly intercepted a pass near half court and soon tallied her third assist of the quarter by finding junior guard Akienreh Johnson.

That bucket was the start of a 10-4 run that gave Michigan an 18-11 lead heading into the second. The high point of that streak came with just over two minutes remaining. First, Thome scored another layup, and then Munger nailed a triple from the left wing to force a timeout.

“We kind of wanted to make our last game at Crisler special, so not taking any minute for granted,” Thome, who finished with a team-high 14 points, said. “I think her and I had the mindset just to have fun with it tonight and enjoy our last time out at Crisler.”

The second frame was rather quiet in terms of scoring. Wisconsin got a layup early, but the Wolverines struggled to score and finished the half with nine turnovers. Their tight defense paid off though, as they forced the Badgers into 17 first-half turnovers to retain their lead.

“We’ve been emphasizing all week playing defense,” Thome said, “cause that’s really what ignites our offense.”

Michigan went on a scoring burst in the last minute of the half, spurred by junior forward Kayla Robbins and Johnson. Robbins picked up a steal and they each scored four points, giving the Wolverines a 34-19 lead at intermission.

After the break, the Wolverines stayed solid defensively and also drained a trio of 3-pointers to widen the gap. Wisconsin failed to make any sort of comeback, and Michigan had secured the victory heading into the final frame.

Because of this the Wolverines checked in all four seniors at the start of the final quarter and enjoyed the rest of senior day.

“That was so much fun,” Thome said. “I don’t know the last game I’ve played with every senior, so that’s something special. I think that’s something all four of us will remember, being able to play on the court we started this year together, and it’s only right to finish it on the court together.”

Added Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico: “They got to play some real quality minutes, and everybody scored and I think it was a great tribute to our senior class.”