Going into the season, sophomore guard Amy Dilk was hyped up. A year older, stronger and more experienced, she would take the reins of the offense, she would be the floor general. A dominant double-double to start the season over Western Michigan furthered the hype train.
And then, she struggled. Forcing passes where none dare enter, doing too much.
But throughout Sunday’s 89-69 victory over Michigan State, Dilk was unstoppable.
Multiple times, Dilk brought the ball up the court, took half a second to diagnose the defense, then drove to the basket for an easy layup. In what’s becoming a common source of offense, she did the same against Penn State, and No. 12 Maryland before that.
Yet all three of those games came in the aftermath of her best game as a Wolverine against No. 8 Florida State on Dec. 22. Against the highest-ranked team Michigan has played all year, Dilk went deep into the game without missing a shot — almost single-handedly keeping the Wolverines in it with a career-high 26 points.
Her recent offensive potency is the manifestation of what her coaches and players knew she needed to be all along.
“I think for her to take those next steps in her development, similar to what we talked about with (sophomore forward) Naz (Hillmon), is she’s gotta be a more consistent shooter,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico at media day prior to the season. “She’s gotta be willing to take those shots and knock down those shots, and she has worked hard on that in the offseason.”
Senior forward Kayla Robbins added at the time: “Her scoring ability has really gone up, and she has been able to score the basketball. And her passing, of course. She was one of the leaders in the Big Ten in assists. I think that if she can be a double threat in terms of passing the ball and scoring the ball, she’s going to be really good this year.”
For a while, though, it wasn’t obvious if Dilk would realize her potential. She struggled early in the year with an eight-turnover game against Akron and seven against Notre Dame in the Wolverines’ first loss of the season.
Dilk’s performances forced Barnes Arico to take her off the court after her first turnover of a game, giving her time to watch the game and dissect it from the outside before going back in. Even when her turnovers were kept under control, she struggled to score — averaging 5.6 points per game over a five-game streak in December.
Still, after every game, Barnes Arico kept repeating, “I feel like I have one of the best point guards in the country.”
Last season, Barnes Arico said it took Dilk a while to settle into the rhythm of the court. After all, starting as a freshman in a top college basketball conference isn’t easy.
This year, it took Dilk some time to settle down again.
“Sometimes as a point guard you need to figure out your team, you need to figure out yourself,” Barnes Arico said on Dec. 30 before beating Penn State. “You need to figure out who can catch what passes. You need to figure out your decision making, and that was a little bit of a process coming into this season.”
Now, in her second year, and fully literate in the offense, she’s turned into a monster for the Wolverines.
“She’s playing with a lot more confidence, I think,” Barnes Arico said. “She can flip the game. Whether that’s her scoring, her passing, her rebounding or her defense, she’s the total package. I’m happy that she’s playing with the confidence that she is because she’s impacting our team.
“She can beat anybody to the basket. She’s faced incredible defenders in the last couple of weeks and still has the ability to get to the rim when she wants to.”
Should Dilk remain confident, Michigan’s offense will be deadly, as the Spartans found out on Sunday.