The Michigan women's basketball team played strong defense against Ohio State. Kate Hua/Daily. Buy this photo.

COLUMBUS – Heading into its matchup against No. 22 Ohio State, the No. 7 Michigan women’s basketball team faced the tough task of stopping one of the nation’s best offenses on its home court. 

The Wolverines love to embrace challenges that will ultimately make them a better team moving forward. They wanted to leave Value City Arena having proven themselves the more physical team. Doing so would almost certainly assure Michigan a victory. 

“Throughout the week (we) talked about our heart and hustle,” senior forward Naz Hillmon said. “(Ohio State’s) gonna come out firing and they’re going to want to get every rebound but we just had to out tough them and not wait for the ball to come back to us.”

Michigan successfully out-toughed the Buckeyes and cruised to a 77-58 victory.

Heading into this game, Ohio State had the best three-point shooting and fourth-best scoring offense in the nation. But halfway through the first quarter, the Wolverines looked to be cruising, holding the Buckeyes to just one field goal.

Ohio State would begin to gain some momentum late in the first quarter. It forced turnovers and scored points in transition, hitting five of 10 shots from the field to cut the lead to seven. 

The momentum failed to carry over, though, as the Buckeyes struggled in the second quarter against the Wolverines’ defense. Ohio State  ended up shooting more field goals in the final two minutes of the first than during the entire second quarter, their offense having disappeared. 

“I think we understood in the first quarter how to defend them and what we needed to do from a defensive standpoint to become more effective,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. 

Michigan did a stellar job battling for contested shots and forced five turnovers in the second quarter. And when the defense made a stop, the team would often respond by scoring on the offensive end. 

This complementary play helped the Wolverines’ pull away in the second, and their ability to prevent transition points for the Buckeyes proved equally important.

“I thought we had to slow them down in transition,” Barnes Arico said. “We had to take care of the basketball and not turn the ball over for easy buckets for them. We were able to do both of those things, we contested their shots and challenged them.”

Taking care of the basketball proved successful as the Wolverines held Ohio State scoreless the final 3:10 of the first half, allowing themselves to build separation on the scoreboard. 

Heading into the second half, it was more of the same.

The Buckeyes failed to score until their eighth offensive possession of the third quarter. Every missed shot, a Michigan player was there for the defensive rebound. Senior guard Danielle Rauch and senior forward Emily Kiser led the team with seven defensive rebounds each. 

“I thought Emily Kiser did an amazing job of helping on their guards and really trying to take some of their stuff away,” Barnes Arico said. “She was really great out there, and our guards really locked into the scout. We were able to prepare for them and they followed the game plan and just were exceptional on the defensive end. We were sending another person which was disruptive.”

Ohio State would score 22 points in the fourth quarter, but Michigan pulled its starters halfway through the frame. Despite allowing a productive fourth quarter, it held the Buckeyes to just 58 points, their lowest-scoring game of the season.

“It speaks volumes to our defense,” Barnes Arico said. That’s something we really pride ourselves on is being able to defend and tonight we were able to lock down one of the top scoring teams in our league. I’m really proud of the way that our kids handled them.”