In its final non-conference game of the season, 3-point shooting was the difference for the No. 19 Michigan women’s basketball team.
The Wolverines attacked early from outside. Butler’s defense was aggressive in the post, trying to contain junior forward Naz Hillmon, the same strategy all Michigan’s opponents have taken. In past games, the Wolverines have relied heavily on other guards to take more mid-range shots, or focus on driving into the paint to create space for Hillmon. Instead, against the Bulldogs, Michigan decided it was time to test their 3-point shooting.
Sophomore guard Michelle Sidor exploded from behind the arc early in the second quarter. Going 4-for-8 from behind the arc, she contributed 18 points — 9 of which came in the second quarter. Last season Sidor averaged only 11.3 minutes per game off the bench. On Wednesday she saw 18.
“I felt good coming into the game,” Sidor said. “My shot was really flowing in warmups and yesterday (in practice). So I knew when I had the opportunity to shoot, I was going to be launching them today.”
Fifth-year senior guard Akienreh Johnson also showcased her talent from the perimeter against the Bulldogs. She went 2-for-4 from three. Johnson isn’t typically a player that takes many outside shots. Normally, she capitalizes on her passing ability to get other players open. But against a Butler defense intent on taking away passing lanes, Johnson stepped out of her comfort zone.
“Coach (Kim Barnes Arico) has been giving us a lot of confidence to start shooting more threes during games because we all know that teams are gonna try to pack the paint because we have Naz,” Johnson said. “So she’s asked me to start knocking down shots.”
Michigan had multiple other players contribute from deep. Junior guard Amy Dilk added one along with junior guard Danielle Rauch and sophomore guard Maddie Nolan. Junior wing Leigha Brown also attempted two threes, and while they didn’t fall, the attempts continued to stretch the Bulldogs defense away from Hillmon in the post.
Notably, senior guard Hailey Brown went 0-for-2 from three, which is typically her strong suit. Brown’s lack of production made room for players up and down the roster to get involved.
“Multiple people were able to knock down shots tonight,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “On a night where arguably our best 3-point shooter Hailey Brown didn’t make any, everybody else had an opportunity to step up.”
The Wolverines’ 3-point shooting also gave multiple opportunities for offensive rebounds. With Hillmon in the post, a missed shot can be an easy put-back. She contributed four offensive rebounds. Weakside guards can also crash the boards for second-chance points on missed threes. Dilk added four offensive rebounds alongside Leigha Brown’s two.
Overall, 27 of the Wolverines’ 93 points came from three. It’s a facet of the offense Michigan has struggled with in past games. In the last four games, the Wolverines have shot less than 20 threes — on Wednesday they shot 27. Trying to contain Hillmon in the post often leaves someone open on the perimeter. In past games, Michigan would have been content to give up those shots. On Wednesday, they decided to capitalize on those open looks.
“We have capable shooters,” Barnes Arico said. “You saw Michelle come in off the bench tonight and have a great night making some outside shots for us. But that was definitely their game plan. And that’s something that we worked on hard as a team.”
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