Offensive rebounds give Michigan the edge

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 9:06pm

Led by Naz Hillmon, Michigan has controlled the glass so far in Big Ten play.

Led by Naz Hillmon, Michigan has controlled the glass so far in Big Ten play. Buy this photo
Madeline Hinkley/Daily

Driving at the Illinois defense, sophomore guard Maddie Nolan tossed the ball up for the layup. Bouncing off the glass, it looked like an uneventful end to a broken possession. The Michigan women’s basketball team, though, came away with two points after fifth-year senior forward Akienreh Johnson earned the offensive rebound and scored. 

So far this season, the Wolverines have proven their ability to convert inside the paint as well as rain down threes. Michigan has an average margin of victory of 23.8 points per game with its prowess on the offensive glass serving as a key factor. Junior forward Naz Hillmon and junior guard Amy Dilk have been a big part of this effort, earning 50 and 22 offensive rebounds, respectively, thus far. 

In a tight 64-62 win over Nebraska, Michigan’s offensive rebounding made the difference. On one possession, Johnson pushed towards the rim, shouldering her defender and throwing the ball up. Missing the hoop, Hillmon snatched the ball one handed, bodied down low and lobbed the ball through the net. 

It was one of many highlights by Hillmon, who had the best game of her career against the Cornhuskers, scoring 35 points. Many of these easy looks were generated off her work on the offensive glass, totaling a whopping 13 on the night. As a team, the Wolverines hauled in 30 rebounds on the offensive glass. 

“We did a great job (with offensive rebounding) in the first half,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the game. “We just didn’t score always off of our offensive rebounds. When we talked about that at halftime, at least we were not giving them the ability to get the ball back, which we thought was really important.” 

While Hillmon and Johnson have proven to be forces on the offensive glass, Michigan gets contributions on the boards from its entire team. Junior forward Emily Kiser, who missed the first five games of the season due to an ankle injury, has hauled in six offensive rebounds in five games and has helped to be a key contributor for the Wolverines.

Despite standing at just 6-foot-0, Dilk ranks second on the team with 2.2 offensive rebounds per game, trailing only Hillmon. The dynamic backcourt of Dilk and junior guard Danielle Rauch proves to be a tough assignment for opposing defenses. That leads to a multitude of rebounding opportunities and anticipation. 

“We practice a lot for one of our players to just follow a wide open layup and to still hustle trying to get an offensive rebound,” Johnson said. “You never know if the ball is going to go in or not.”

Even if the Wolverines experience a shooting slump, they know they have Hillmon, Dilk and Johnson to earn extra shots and draw fouls in the paint with their prowess on the offensive boards. This ability could be the difference for them to continue their unbeaten record.

Who knows, it may even win them a Big Ten championship.


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