Michigan overpowered by Florida State in second half en route to 79-69 loss
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — As the clock ticked down, sophomore guard Amy Dilk drove to the hoop and made a layup as time expired, giving Michigan a one-point lead and momentum entering halftime.
But the 24th-ranked Wolverines (9-2) couldn’t take this momentum into the second half, en route to a 79-69 loss to No. 8 Florida State (12-0). They couldn’t convert on the offensive end to start the third quarter, while the Seminoles fed their bigs in the paint with success. Sophomore forward Naz Hillmon and junior forward Hailey Brown both picked up two fouls in the first half, and had to play conservative defensively. Florida State had taken a five-point lead before Michigan scored in the second half — over four minutes into the third quarter.
The Wolverines wouldn’t relent. From there, Hillmon got going. Michigan’s leading scorer was largely kept in check in the first half, logging just two points. She made the Wolverines’ next two baskets — both layups — and they settled down. Dilk made a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer on the next two possessions, cutting the deficit to one. She finished with 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting
Michigan got a stop on the defensive end and on the ensuing possession, freshman center Izabel Varejão drew a foul and knocked down both free throws. Michigan had regained the lead.
After leading for most of the first half, that was the last lead the Wolverines would get. Florida State got hot, knocking down two 3-pointers in the final 1:30 of the quarter and took a two-point lead into the fourth.
This strong shooting continued into the fourth. The Seminoles made five of their first nine shots and extended the lead to 10.
“I think some of our missed shots led to their offense and they fed off of that a little bit,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We struggled a little bit offensively, couldn’t get going. They’re a team that wears you down. They’re a good fourth quarter team. They outscore opponents a ton in the fourth quarter, so I think they had a lot of confidence going down the stretch.”
But just as it had after a slow third-quarter start, Michigan continued to play hard and get back into the game. The Wolverines locked down on defense, forcing Florida State misses, and got going on offense. They cut the lead to three with 2:39 remaining.
Ultimately, it was too little too late. Michigan missed contested layups, while the Seminoles made their own. They took a seven-point lead with under a minute remaining. The Wolverines had one more chance, but Brown missed a three, ending any hope Michigan had of a comeback.
“We tried to recover,” Dilk said. “We were within a basket to tie it back up, but the ball didn’t go our way.”
Brown, one of the Wolverines’ strongest 3-point shooters, struggled from deep all game — she made just 1-of-8. Michigan shot just 17.6 percent from 3-point range as a whole.
From the start, it was clear that it would be a defensive battle, and eventually the offensive dam broke for Michigan. With 6:30 left in the first quarter, Hillmon intercepted a pass, and on the ensuing offensive possession found senior forward Kayla Robbins cutting for an easy layup, sparking a 10-0 Wolverines run over the next two minutes.
But Florida State responded with a 6-0 run of its own, forcing Michigan to miss shots and turn the ball over. The Wolverines, at one point leading by nine, saw their lead cut to three by the end of the quarter
The Wolverines’ offense struggled without Hillmon and Brown on the floor due to foul trouble in the second quarter. They scored just three points over the next 2:30 as the Seminoles exploited Michigan’s inexperienced bigs. Florida State took the lead and extended it to four.
“It was huge because we couldn’t play the kind of defense that we wanted to play when Naz got into foul trouble,” Barnes Arico said. “We couldn’t have the matchups that we wanted to have when she got in foul trouble.”
Without its two best bigs on the floor, the game could have slipped away from Michigan right there, but just as the Wolverines had in the first quarter, they tightened up their defense, forcing stops which led to offense.
Dilk’s layup gave Michigan a lead entering halftime and the Wolverines kept it close in the third quarter, but Florida State took over in the fourth quarter. After three strong defensive quarters for Michigan, the Seminoles scored 29 points in the fourth quarter — 10 more than in any other quarter.
The Wolverines played a tight game against one of the country’s top teams for three quarters, but Florida State’s offensive firepower was too much for Michigan to contain down the stretch.