Senior forward Naz Hillmon came down with the defensive rebound and threw it ahead to senior guard Amy Dilk, who quickly attacked the rim from the right side, falling away as her shot went up. It didn’t find the mark, but senior forward Emily Kiser snagged the board and put it back up, extending the Wolverines’ lead to 13 and virtually slamming the door on the Boilermakers midway through the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, No. 7 Michigan (17-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) put away an unranked Purdue (12-7, 3-5) squad that wouldn’t quit, 79-66.
“I knew today was going to be a tough one,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “They’re an undersized team that gives us matchup problems. But, we were really able to expose them and take advantage of the mismatches that we had inside.”
Hillmon exposed these mismatches as she dominated the first quarter. The Wolverines looked to her inside, and as soon as Hillmon gained possession in the paint, there was nothing the Boilermakers could do to stop her. Hillmon punished Purdue’s defense, scoring 15 points — on 7-for-7 shooting — in the first quarter en route to a 32 point performance.
However, Purdue’s aggressive style held the rest of Michigan’s offense to just 1-of-10 shooting throughout the quarter, which left the game within striking distance.
Hillmon didn’t see many open looks in the second quarter with double teams being thrown her way, but it hardly affected Michigan’s offensive production. Senior guard Leigha Brown picked up right where Hillmon left off — pouring in nine points in the second quarter after being held scoreless in the first.
“I think the other team made some adjustments, pre-doubling or putting a barrier defender on me,” Hillmon said. “But at the end of the day, my teammates were open so they were able to take some of the shots that I had early in the game when I was being single-covered.”
Brown’s offensive production remained consistent over the course of the quarter, but every time it appeared one of her baskets could fuel a run to see the Wolverines finally pull away, the Boilermakers managed to hit timely shots. Despite strong performances from Hillmon and Brown, the Wolverines only held a 38-31 lead at the half.
After Hillmon opened the scoring in the second half, the Boilermakers proceeded to score seven unanswered points, trimming Michigan’s lead to a meager two points early in the third quarter.
With a dwindling lead, the Wolverines were looking for someone to make a play.
Junior guard Maddie Nolan rose to the occasion, protecting Michigan’s lead by sinking a pair of 3-pointers in rapid succession — the Wolverines’ first triples of the night.
“Maddie Nolan has the green light whenever she wants it,” Barnes Arico said. “She missed a couple in the first half, and thankfully she was confident enough to take them in the third quarter because she made two big ones.”
Despite the eight-point cushion, though, the contest was far from over.
After trading buckets for the majority of the third quarter, it began to look like Michigan could finally snuff out Purdue’s flame. After corralling an offensive rebound, Hillmon swiftly rose to the basket to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 12.
Early in the fourth quarter, Purdue managed to claw its way back into the game one last time. After Nolan’s third foul of the game, a pair of free throws brought the Boilermakers within seven.
But Purdue’s last-ditch effort was in vain. Michigan eventually managed to pull away in the fourth quarter — this time for good. Not even a minute after Kiser’s aforementioned putback, freshman guard Laila Phelia snatched a steal. Hitting a three in the resulting possession, Phelia extended the Wolverine lead to 16 midway through the final quarter, sending Purdue home empty-handed.
“We always talk about, in the fourth quarter, our experience shining through,” Barnes Arico said. “Really handling pressure, taking care of the ball, trying to draw fouls early and be aggressive so we can get to the free-throw line at the end of the quarter. I thought we were able to do that. Our experience is greater than theirs.”