With 5:08 left in the second quarter, the Michigan women’s basketball team called a timeout. As the Wolverines headed towards their bench, their expressions displayed obvious displeasure. And deservedly so, Michigan hadn’t yet scored in the second quarter.
In the twelfth-ranked Wolverines’ match-up against No. 10 Louisville, an inability to make shots in the first half gave the Cardinals a chance to gain a lead. They jumped at this opportunity, building an insurmountable 24-point lead into half.
Starting the game, it looked like the Wolverines would keep up their strong offense from their weekend tournament. At the end of the first media timeout, the game was tied 7-7 and Michigan was shooting 42.8%.
Then Louisville got fired up.
Sinking a 3-pointer, the Cardinals went on an 11-0 run, ending the Wolverines’ lead. Louisville started the second quarter with another scoring run, keeping Michigan scoreless for the first six minutes of the second quarter.
“We were sitting strong at 15-9 and we just could not buy a bucket,” senior forward Emily Kiser said. “Which I mean as much as you can try and play defense over and over again when you have a lid on the basket, it just makes it really hard mentally.”
The Wolverines ended the quarter with just six points, and entered the locker room shooting just 26% from the floor.
A strong Cardinals defense contested every shot Michigan took and flustered senior forward Naz Hillmon in the paint. The Wolverines’ typical leading scorer was locked down in the post by the Louisville defense, only scoring four points in the first half. Hillmon ended the game with 12 points, well below her average of 20.4 points per game.
Kiser notched 10 points in the matchup — the only other player to score in double digits. Michigan coach Barnes Arico tried multiple different lineups, but none were able to overcome the aggressive Cardinals defense.
Poor 3-point shooting was another typical facet of the Wolverines’ offense missing from the game. At the half, Michigan was shooting just 11% from behind the arc and didn’t improve much in the second half, ending the game at 2-for-15 from three.
“We couldn’t really hit any outside shots, which didn’t really open things up for (Hillmon),” Barnes Arico said. “We’ve got to do better at hitting some outside shots to open some stuff up.”
The Wolverines tried to salvage the game in the third quarter, coming out of halftime stronger than in the first — but it was just too little too late to come back.
With Michigan’s first loss of the season in the books, it’s clear the Wolverines have areas to improve.
“It tells us we’ve got a lot to work on,” Kiser said “I think we were kind of on a high after this last weekend in Florida. So just you know, it tells us we’re a good team. We’re not gonna lose confidence off that game. But we know we’ve got a lot to work on.”
Kiser is right that the Wolverines have much to work on, but testing their limits this early in the season can only help highlight what areas must be improved. These early tests provide Michigan the opportunity to become a better team moving into a strong Big Ten conference schedule.