EAST LANSING — A loss wasn’t the only calamity the Michigan women’s basketball team suffered on Sunday.
Freshman forward Hailey Brown went down with a lower left leg injury late in the fourth quarter. Brown was trying to defend a transition drive from Michigan State’s Branndais Agee when the injury occurred.
Brown fell underneath the basket and was helped off without putting weight on her left leg. On the bench, a trainer put an ice pack around Brown’s ankle. She did not return.
Just minutes earlier, Brown hit a 3-pointer to bring the Wolverines within four points. Those were the last of her seven points on the day, which Brown scored on 3-of-4 shooting from the field, the latest in a run of impressive performances.
The quietest starter during the first part of the season, Brown broke out with a 23-point performance against Indiana last month. She followed that up with double-doubles in two of her next three games, adding a fourth reliable scorer to Michigan’s starting trio of senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, junior guard Nicole Munger and junior center Hallie Thome.
Without her, the Wolverines’ offense lagged in the game’s final minutes. What had looked like a promising comeback lost steam, as Michigan blew a chance to tie the game in the last minute, committing a shot clock violation. Then, with nine seconds left in the contest and three on the shot clock, sophomore forward Kayla Robbins fouled the Spartans’ Victoria Gaines. Two free throws later, any chance for a win had evaporated.
“Hailey’s a great 3-point shooter and she obviously made a 3 (just before the injury), and you know, she’s tough with the pick-and-pop and the flare screens to Kate,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “… Definitely not having her in at the end of the game took away one of our best 3-point shooters. Next to Kate, she’s probably shooting it the best of anyone on our team right now.”
Brown will be evaluated in the coming days. No immediate update on the injury was provided.
Should Brown miss Wednesday’s game at Minnesota, either Robbins or freshman guard Deja Church, the only two bench players to get consistent minutes for the Wolverines, will likely move into the starting lineup. Church was the immediate replacement for Brown, but Robbins also played in crunch-time because senior forward Jillian Dunston fouled out.
It’s hard to overstate the potential impact of this injury if Brown is out for a significant time. Michigan’s last two games are in Minneapolis and home against Maryland, a top-10 team. The Wolverines would have been happy to win one of the two with a healthy squad. Without Brown, disaster looms.
Michigan will likely make the NCAA Tournament regardless. The Wolverines are 34th in RPI and the Big Ten features a slew of tournament contenders, making it hard to see a repeat of last season even with a similar slog to the finish.
But finishing the year with two more losses — and dropping five of their last six — would open the door to ambiguity heading into the Selection Show. Michigan lived the perils of such a situation last season. Without Brown, it might do so again.