It’s hard to believe that, just four short weeks ago, the Michigan women’s basketball team suffered a loss to Michigan State that put its tournament hopes on life support. Just two weeks later, freshman point guard Amy Dilk went down with an ankle injury, and the Wolverines’ slim odds became even slimmer on paper.
But, just as they have shown time and time again this season, Michigan has found a way to win. On the heels of six straight victories, the Wolverines finds themselves in the mix of the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament picture.
While senior forward Hallie Thome grabbed headlines on Sunday after scoring the 2,000th point of her Michigan career, junior forward Kayla Robbins was the night’s true star. The sophomore forward scored a career-high 15 points and hauled in five rebounds in just thirteen minutes of action against Illinois.
“We knew it was a matter of time,” head coach Kim Barnes Arico said in an interview with MGoBlueTV. “She’s been a difference-maker for us.”
Robbins’ performance is just one of the many examples of different Wolverines stepping up on a nightly basis.
After the win against the Illini, Barnes Arico called the victory “an incredible team effort.” While this was evident in Sunday’s triumph, it’s a quote that could truly be pulled from just about any game that the team has played over its recent hot streak. Despite being hampered by injuries and by fielding an extremely young roster, every player has recognized their role and filled it perfectly.
Perhaps the two players shouldering the biggest load are junior forward Akienreh Johnson and senior forward Nicole Munger, who have split the team’s point guard reps since Dilk was sidelined. The two have helped the offense play efficient and, more importantly, relatively turnover-free basketball.
While the team has improved drastically over the course of the season, it feels as if it is continuing to make progress every game. Especially with a young group, more game experience has sharpened the play of young stars like freshman forward Naz Hillmon. Sophomore guard Deja Church has improved drastically on drives to the rim as well as on the defensive end, and Johnson and Robbins have contributed too, making tremendous strides in their recent extended action. Elsewhere, the veteran leadership of Munger and Thome have helped to stabilize the offense as well as helping to guide the team through the Big Ten gauntlet that they have become all too familiar with over the course of their four years with the program. Simply put, this is a team that’s getting hot at the perfect time, and Barnes Arico believes that, once healthy, the best is yet to come for her squad.
“One of the exciting things about our team is that we’re continuing to get better,” she said.