The No. 17 Michigan women’s basketball team is no stranger to intense games. But in Thursday’s 76-64 victory over Miami, one of its most physical games yet, things got even chippier than normal.
En route to the Wolverines’ eighth win of the season, the team drew 26 fouls and 28 turnovers — including four charges drawn by graduate forward Emily Kiser.
“When you have Emily Kiser who can draw four charges in a game, that’s pretty impressive and that helps a lot,” fifth-year wing Leigha Brown told The Daily on Thursday.
Not only was the Michigan defense forcing the Hurricanes to throw the ball away when they had possession, but the Wolverines also forced Miami to hack on the defensive end as well.
But the Hurricanes’ aggressive approach backfired, and Miami was forced to weather the storm that was Michigan’s near-perfect free-throw shooting, going 24-for-26 from the charity stripe — a season-high in both makes and attempts.
In the first quarter alone, Brown reached the line four times and sunk all eight of her attempts. Most of those trips came after Michigan entered the bonus halfway through the period.
“(Brown) was unbelievable in the first quarter,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA after the game. “She drew six fouls (in the quarter) single-handedly.”
As Brown continued to wreak havoc on the Hurricanes from the free-throw line, making all 12 of her attempts, the rest of the Wolverines joined the party. Kiser went 7-for-8 from the line as she drew fouls not only while on defense but on offense too.
“We shot really, really well from the free throw line tonight,” Brown said. “And that’s something that, in close gritty games like this, it definitely makes an impact.”
The grittiness of this game, while not a new style of play for Michigan, looked a little different from earlier games this season. Both teams were charged with an intentional foul in the second half, the Wolverines’ coming in the third quarter and Miami’s in the fourth. But Michigan’s experience with intense physical matchups helped the team keep its cool and remain unfazed.
“That’s something that we kind of got to experience in our last Florida tournament,” Brown said. “So we were kind of prepared for that. We knew they were going to be scrappy and really come at us.”
And come at the Wolverines they did. Four Hurricane players ended the night with four fouls and a fifth fouled out. The team was forced to play with caution as so many of its players battled to remain in the game. By putting Michigan in the bonus in three out of four quarters of play, Miami gave Michigan 24 free points.
In the fourth quarter, after the Wolverines began to pull away, the Hurricanes’ issues with fouling allowed for Michigan’s offensive storm to do major damage by putting the final nails in the coffin, damage that Miami simply couldn’t match.
The Wolverines entered the bonus less than three minutes into the final frame of play and never looked back. The team shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the line in the fourth, making the Hurricanes pay each time the whistle sounded.
When Miami had possession of the ball, Michigan made sure it wouldn’t be for long. The Wolverines forced 28 turnovers, their second most of the season. They made those turnovers hurt for the Hurricanes, scoring 28 points off of those takeaways.
“Naturally our defense is so up in your grill and physical that we’re able to force a lot of (turnovers),” Brown said. “Just really make teams uncomfortable.”
By forcing Miami to foul 26 times and commit 28 turnovers, Michigan ended its week the same way it started. Capping off a whirlwind five-game road trip, the Wolverines showed the Hurricanes what a storm really looks like.