INDIANAPOLIS — With the game decided and the scoreboard counting down, junior guard Hailey Brown exited the floor for her last time in the Big Ten Tournament. This wouldn’t be the first time her substitution would be notable.
Brown earned her second personal foul of the game with eight minutes to go in the second quarter. Eight seconds later she gained a third, exiting the game for the rest of the half.
Michigan was forced to rely on junior forward Emily Kiser, a consistent role player but not an ample scorer. Averaging 2.5 points a game, it was Kiser’s ability to defend that the Wolverines were really hoping to capitalize on facing a vibrant Northwestern team. Kiser earned a block and a pair of assists in the remaining minutes of the quarter but couldn’t match Brown’s contributions at the net.
An offensive threat that can guard anyone, Brown’s absence was known. Scoring an early 3-pointer in the first quarter, it looked like the old Brown was back just in time. Momentum changed in the second after she earned two fouls back-to-back, her second and third of the game.
“It was interesting the way the game was called in the second quarter,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “I thought we drew a couple fouls early, and it really swung differently in the second quarter.”
After sophomore guard Maddie Nolan picked up her third foul, the Wolverines had earned seven personal fouls compared to the Wildcats’ two. This further limited Michigan outside shooting. Nolan, a consistent minute provider in the absence of junior guard Amy Dilk, went into the half knowing her opportunities in the third quarter would be spare.
Hailey Brown played the majority of the third quarter. Going 0-for-2 from behind the arc, the rhythm she gained in the first quarter was drowned out by a lack of touches in the second.
“Hailey is a very calm player and one of our senior leaders on the floor,” junior forward Naz Hillmon said. “Having her off the floor is really tough. She gives a lot of paint help and usually guards the bigger, stronger post player.”
Brown earned a single block in the final quarter, leaving the floor for Kiser again. Nolan earned her fourth foul in the fourth quarter, limiting her defensive energy and offensive spark from the 3-point line. Michigan’s foul issues were a problem since the beginning of the second quarter, and they were still able to end the half tied, 30-30. Yet, it was the rhythm the team was in that was upset by the early foul trouble, eventually leading the Wildcats to gain a lead and come out with the victory.
“We can’t use (foul trouble) as an excuse,” Hillmon said. “The other team had foul trouble in the post position as well.”
Forward Paige Mott and guard Veronica Burton earned four and three fouls respectively, with Mott earning three by the end of the first half. She wasn’t able to contribute offensively but the Wildcats found a way to win. Burton controlled the game and led her team with 25 points, proving their ability to withstand the foul trouble.
This isn’t the first time the Wolverines experienced foul issues. Against Michigan State and Purdue, Michigan felt the wrath of foul trouble. When it mattered most, the Wolverines couldn’t overcome one of their greatest problems.