Clinging to a one-point lead against Michigan State, the No. 14 Michigan women’s basketball team needed a spark. Following a Spartans miss, senior guard Maddie Nolan hit an important 3-pointer to pad the Wolverines’ lead.
The dagger cushioned the Michigan advantage, which they never surrendered in a 70-55 win. But while it was important at the time, it didn’t seem to carry any extra weight — even if it marked a major milestone.
With the shot, Nolan moved into the 10th spot on the all-time made 3-pointers list for the Wolverines, surpassing Veronica Hicks’ total of 135. The veteran guard now has 137 career triples, and continues to build her reputation as a sharpshooter in her fourth year with the program. Nolan is currently operating at 35% efficiency and has made 18 shots from deep so far this season. The ninth spot currently belongs to Jessica Minnfield, who has 138 — a mark that Nolan now looks to pass quickly as she continues to climb the all-time list.
“No matter how many Maddie misses, I know when the time comes that we need a shot … she’s gonna knock (it) down,” graduate forward Emily Kiser said on Saturday.
Nolan earned that trust as a consistent scorer from deep in her first three seasons with Michigan, improving her efficiency and increasing her three-point volume from year-to-year.
As a freshman, Nolan started 11 games, shooting 31% from deep. Then in her second year, she made 21 triples despite starting just four games. Five of those came in one game versus Wisconsin.
Her junior season, that number jumped to a whopping 68.
But it wasn’t just her volume that increased: Nolan’s shooting three-point percentage jumped from 36% to 40%, aiding the Wolverines’ historic postseason run and earning her the nickname “Maddie Nylon.”
That legacy isn’t without struggle. Coming into this season, with Michigan looking to replace the offensive production of Naz Hillmon, success from beyond-the-arc appeared crucial to transform the team’s identity. But Nolan — heralded as the team’s best shooter — struggled. In the first two months of the season, her three-point percentage was just 31%.
But Michigan’s confidence in her never wavered:
“All of us and the coaching staff have all the confidence in the world that she’s gonna step up and hit those shots,” fifth-year wing Leigha Brown said following a win against South Florida on Nov. 26.
Nolan started that game on a cold streak, but ended up hitting three 3-pointers down the stretch — propelling Michigan to an important early win.
Despite her pedestrian numbers from deep early on, Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico kept Nolan in the starting lineup. And it paid off. Nolan’s percentage has jumped to 47% since Dec. 31, including three makes in the win over Michigan State.
“I’ve been surrounded by great teammates and great coaches,” Nolan said after being informed of her accomplishment. “At the beginning of the season I was in a lull, and it would have been easy for me to get down on myself and stop shooting. But I’m lucky to be surrounded by people that continue to give me confidence, continue to trust in me and pass me the ball.”
Despite that lull, Nolan’s reputation as a constant threat from deep only continues to spread. After her record-making performance against Michigan State, Spartans head coach Suzy Merchant acknowledged her impact as a shooter:
“Maddie Nolan might not get a lot of shots,” Merchant said. “But if she gets four she’s gonna hit three or four. Every time she gets six, she’s probably going four-for-six. She’s gonna make ‘em.”
With her slump apparently at an end, Nolan continues to be a key piece for the Wolverines. She has started every game of the season and ranks third in minutes-per-game. She is now playing like the best three-point shooter on a team dedicated to being great at shooting threes.
“We have great shooters,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said following the win over the Spartans. “In the preseason we talked about our ability to shoot the three and (our goal to) really try to be better in that area this season.”
So far, Nolan’s play has been emblematic of that goal. And now she has a place in the record books to show for it.