Leigha Brown dribbled down the lane after catching the ball off the inbounds pass. Forgoing her signature mid-range jumper, the junior wing brought the ball all the way down to the block for a layup.
The ball rolled out of her hands and into the hoop with just 19 seconds left in overtime. Down by three, the Michigan women’s basketball team needed someone to step up and make a big play. Brown, like she’d done all second half, was the one to do so.
Though the No. 6 seed Wolverines would end up losing 78-75 to No. 2 seed Baylor, Brown’s second half nearly powered them to another upset.
In the Sweet 16 matchup, Michigan needed its offense firing on all cylinders. Early on, the offense fell flat, relying solely on junior forward Naz Hillmon.
Facing an aggressive Baylor defense, Brown had struggled throughout the first half to play a big offensive role. Typically the one-two punch with Hillmon, Michigan needed Brown to step up in the second half to help turn the tide.
Coming out of halftime, Brown did just that. As the Bears continued to double down on Hillmon, Michigan needed someone else to produce on offense, as has been the case so many times this season.
Brown started the second half with just four points. She ended the game with 23. Flaunting her signature mid-range jumper, Brown created space for herself on offense.
“Obviously all of you guys see the offense that she brings to the floor,” Hillmon said. “When I’m drawing a lot of attention, her eyes light up … she takes over any chance that she has the opportunity to.”
Pushing the ball in transition, Brown racked up some transition points, alongside a clutch 3-pointer late in the second half. She also went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, most of which came on driving layups in the lane.
Up until the end of the game, Baylor led the Wolverines, gaining a 12 point lead early in the first half. Throughout the second half, the Bears struggled to hold onto their lead as Brown continued to light up their defense.
“You guys see how special she is,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Such a dynamic 1-2 punch with her and Naz and so many teams just focus on Naz that it really opened things up for Leigha. She’s an incredible, incredible player. She’s a competitor.”
At the end of overtime, after a Baylor player stepped out of bounds with the ball, Michigan had one last chance to salvage the game.
Cutting toward the inbounder, Brown received the pass a couple feet behind the 3-point arc. With 0.9 seconds left on the clock, Brown only had time to turn and shoot over her defender. Chucking up a shot that narrowly missed the rim, Brown could only stand and watch as the ball landed on the court and time ran out.
Brown might have carried the Wolverines through the second half, but when push came to shove, Brown just wasn’t enough.