Standing at the top of the key, senior forward Emily Kiser glanced towards the paint. Senior forward Naz Hillmon had effectively sealed out her defender, and Kiser fired a pass down low. Hillmon quickly turned to sink a layup, helping the Wolverines jump out to a quick six-point lead.
Hillmon’s early bucket foreshadowed what was to come — a complete and thorough dismantling of No. 25 Ohio State’s interior defense. Kiser and Hillmon led the way in the 90-71 win, with their post-scoring and rebounding prowess taking center stage.
“We knew that we were going to have mismatches inside,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Some of them would be to Naz, but some of them would also be to their other post defender who was a guard. So both her and Emily had amazing days.”
It became glaringly evident that Hillmon was going to have a big game in the first quarter. She pulled in six rebounds to accompany her nine points. This dominance continued throughout the first half, and Hillmon had achieved her 40th career double-double heading into the break with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Even as Hillmon began drawing double teams in the second quarter — and entry passes became more difficult — she continued to score the basketball. With just over six minutes left in the first half, Michigan’s guards were firing the ball around the perimeter, looking for a passing lane into the post. The ball was swung to freshman guard Ari Wiggins at the top of the key where she saw daylight, zipping the ball down low to Hillmon. She deftly found the mark before any defenders could react.
Kiser got off to a hot start as well. After junior guard Maddie Nolan missed a 3-pointer with just under four minutes left in the first half, Kiser managed to come down with the offensive rebound. She swiftly put it back up and in for an easy two points, a stamp of her impact on the way to a 10 point and eight rebound first half.
The second half was more of the same, as Hillmon and Kiser continued to prey upon a Buckeye defense that didn’t have the size or athleticism to shut down the Wolverines.
“We did have mismatches a lot, but we were able to find them,” Barnes Arico told WTKA after the game. “It’s something we worked on all week, and I was really happy about that. But, you still have to finish and I thought Emily and Naz were both great at finishing around the rim.”
With seven minutes left to play, Kiser snatched an offensive rebound after senior wing Leigha Brown missed a layup on the drive. Kiser put the ball back up and found the mark, expanding Michigan’s lead to 23 and essentially sealing the win. She finished with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, proving her dominance.
With Kiser and Hillmon leading the charge, Michigan controlled the paint throughout the course of the game. The Wolverines outrebounded Ohio State 48 to 27, with Kiser and Hillmon combining for 30. The dominance in the paint was further reflected on the offensive end, as Michigan outscored the Buckeyes 50 to 36 in the paint.
“(Rebounding) was one of our biggest keys, and especially on the offensive end if they were going to play zone,” Barnes Arico told WTKA after the game. “(Kiser and Hillmon), both of them were outstanding.”