Walking out of the tunnel before Michigan women’s basketball’s home matchup with No. 13 Iowa, senior guard Nicole Munger hobbled along with the rest of her team.
After suffering an ankle injury in the first quart last Sunday, Jan. 27, against Michigan State, Munger was day-to-day all week. She didn’t even go to a shootaround, let alone a practice, until today’s pregame warmups. Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico knew her senior captain would do whatever she could to put herself in a position to play in today’s game against the Hawkeyes, but wanted to wait until the game to see if Munger could go.
“She wasn’t able to come back into the game; she tried everything she could,” Barnes Arico said Monday on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. “I mean obviously we’re not the same team on the court without her, so that really hurt us. She was in the office yesterday (and said), ‘Coach, I’m gonna try my best not to miss anything. I’m gonna be taped up and ready to go.’ ”
And go she did.
Munger came out of the gate firing as she hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter. She cooled down after that — not registering another point until three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter — but still played with the fiery intensity that she brings to the table for every game and practice.
At one point Munger even dove into the Hawkeye bench after going for a steal, paying no regard to her nagging injury, or a possible second injury. But that’s just Munger.
“She can’t help herself, she’s a true warrior,” Barnes Arico said of Munger. “I’ve never met anybody like her. I don’t want her to leave. I want her to rub off on every single person in our program before she leaves because she’s that special. She sacrifices everything she has for our program to be successful. You saw that today by her ability to come out after hurting her ankle the way she did on Sunday and play 40 minutes.”
There were moments throughout the game when Barnes Arico thought Munger either needed a rest or thought her ankle was inhibiting her play — like when Munger came out with two seconds left in the third quarter for defensive purposes. But, overall, Munger didn’t let her injury slow her down.
Despite the injury, Munger still registered just over 35 minutes, the second-highest total among all Wolverines.
Down the stretch, it was Munger who had the ball in her hands, trying to ice the game. And while her injury visibly affected her movement, mentally she was the same as always.
“She’s tough,” junior guard Akienreh Johnson noted of her senior captain. “She is tough. She’s one of the toughest people I have ever met in my life. It’s ridiculous.”
“I didn’t feel it until the end,” Munger said of her ankle. “I felt it swelling up, I have tape on pretty tight so it’s hurting right now because I felt it swelling. So I don’t know, my team needs me out there. And whether I’m scoring, because I’m a shooter, or I’m leading and helping them get into offensive sets, those are kind of my two roles that I’ve really taken pride in. So I don’t know, I didn’t want to lose.”