Coming out of a media timeout midway through the third quarter, senior guard Danielle Rauch lobbed the ball to senior wing Leigha Brown from the baseline. Seemingly floating in midair, Brown caught the ball and hoisted a floater from inside the paint. It fell, and the Minnesota lead was cut to just one.
Brown’s floater shifted the momentum in the Crisler Center — giving the No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team (10-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) the energy it needed to push past the Golden Gophers (6-6, 0-2), ultimately beating them 73-61.
The Wolverines came out of the gate on fire. Brown opened the scoring for Michigan after grabbing a defensive rebound and sprinting up the court before stopping on a dime, sinking a pull-up jumper from inside the paint. Brown’s points fueled a 14-4 run for the Wolverines to start the game.
Michigan’s effective rebounding helped create the early lead. The Wolverines out-rebounded Minnesota 11-6 in the first quarter. This dominance off the glass continued over the course of the game, with Michigan winning the battle for boards 31-20.
“Those are points for us, getting those offensive and even defensive rebounds,” freshman guard Laila Phelia said. “We have an extra possession, and I feel like it came down to those possessions at the end of the game.”
The Gophers came roaring back in the second quarter, though. Minnesota guard Sara Scalia found the mark on a 3-pointer that capped off a 7-0 run, giving them the lead.
On the offensive end, the Gophers were electric all quarter, scoring 22 points on just 13 attempts from the field. Minnesota guard Jasmine Powell capped off the explosive quarter by beating the buzzer and finding the mark on a contested 3-pointer from multiple feet behind the arc, sending the Gophers into halftime up four.
It was the struggling Wolverine offense that gave Minnesota the opportunity to make a comeback, though. In the second quarter, Michigan turned the ball over seven times.
“It’s a fight,” senior forward Hillmon said. “I mean, we’ve been talking about having some down quarters in the past couple games, and just trying to flip that switch.They’re a good team, and they weren’t going to go down without a fight.”
In the third quarter, the game threatened to get out of hand for the Wolverines after a Minnesota 3-pointer found its mark, extending the Gophers lead to seven. Michigan hadn’t given up yet, though. The next trip down the floor, Phelia slithered her way into the paint for a layup.
A few possessions later, senior forward Emily Kiser came up with a steal, and in the ensuing offensive possession Brown hit a pull-up jumper to cut the Gopher lead to just one.
That’s when the momentum began to shift. After Minnesota made a layup to extend its lead back to three, the Wolverines finished the quarter on an 11-4 run — with seven points coming from Hillmon — to head into the final quarter up four.
“Our kids, there was a switch that kind of flipped,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “I think Naz kind of got tired of it, and frustrated, and then all of the sudden started playing at another level.”
Michigan didn’t let its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. In the first offensive possession of the quarter, Brown found junior guard Maddie Nolan on the right wing for an open three. The next trip down the floor, Hillmon scored a layup and the Michigan lead was extended to nine.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Wolverines shut down any hope of a Minnesota comeback. Nolan hit another three from the right wing, and in the following defensive possession Kiser drew a charge. The next trip down the floor, Kiser grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up — extending Michigan’s lead to 12 and snuffing out any spark left in the Gophers.
That, Barnes Arico thought, was the Wolverines’ path to success:
“Just not going away, and just wearing the other team down. I thought we did a great job.”