Point guard rotation helps Dilk thrive against Oakland

Sunday, December 8, 2019 - 8:01pm

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Emma Mati/Daily

Oakland had just cut the Michigan women’s basketball team’s lead to seven, in the midst of a 10-4 run, and Amy Dilk had the ball at the top of the key. The sophomore guard looked to do what she does so often: find sophomore forward Naz Hillmon in the paint and let Hillmon go to work. 

But this time, Hillmon wasn’t open, and Dilk threw the ball over her head — Dilk’s second turnover of the game. On the ensuing possession, Grizzlies guard Alona Blackwell drained a corner 3-pointer, and the Wolverines found themselves leading by just four with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for Dilk. She averages over 3.5 turnovers per game, and her greatest ball security issues have come when the stakes are highest. In the Nov. 23 loss to Notre Dame, Dilk had three costly fourth-quarter turnovers, leading to a blown five-point lead. 

While Dilk has let her play spiral after bad turnovers in the past, she showed improvement Sunday. She didn’t turn the ball over the rest of the game, and on each of the next three possessions made no attempt to be the hero as she had against the Fighting Irish. She made easy passes, took an open shot in the paint and made a great bounce pass to a cutting Hillmon for an easy layup. The Wolverines scored on all three possessions, extending the lead to 10 — a lead they wouldn’t give up, defeating Oakland, 79-64.

“Amy Dilk’s decision making has really really taken strides in the positive direction,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She’s really conscientious and trying to stop hitting the home run pass initially and moving the ball more on the offensive end. (She’s) showing great discipline.”

Added Dilk: “Coach is doing a great job of if I make a mistake, just let it go — don’t dwell on it. There’s a lot of game left to be played.”

From a ball security standpoint, Sunday was Dilk’s best game since the loss to Notre Dame, when she played the entire game. While Barnes Arico didn’t think that fatigue played a role in Dilk’s lackluster fourth-quarter play, she has made an effort to give Dilk a few minutes on the bench in every game since — especially when she makes a bad turnover.

This change is in large part to Barnes Arico’s newfound trust in sophomore guard Danielle Rauch, who has appeared in each of the last four games at point guard. While lacking some of Dilk’s scoring prowess, Rauch has shown the ability to be a capable floor general with Dilk off the floor and has impressed on the defensive end, grabbing four steals over the four-game stretch.

Rauch played an important role in a 12-2 Michigan run to end the first half, assisting on two of the Wolverines’ five field goals in that span.

Having the ability to put Rauch in for extended periods of time has helped Dilk calm down after making a bad decision and keeps her fresh for the end of the game.

“I think Danielle has proven in practice every single day she’s ready for the opportunity, Barnes Arico said. “She limits her turnovers as well and her decision making has been really good for us.

“Just to give Amy a break every now and again to get her re-focused and locked in really helps Amy, as well.”

The change in Michigan’s use of Rauch has paid dividends for Dilk, allowing her to calm down when her play gets sloppy. Sunday showed just how much of a weapon Dilk can be when she takes care of the ball, and a spell on the bench after a poor decision has made this version of Dilk the new norm.