When senior guard Maddie Nolan hit the deck midway through the first quarter against Maryland, she popped right back up, jumping and yelling. Her teammates on the bench all rose to their feet hyping her up, and Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico clapped her hands. That energetic play is one of many in the Wolverines’ past few games.
Because lately, the sharpshooter has brought intensity all over the floor.
Whether that’s taking electrifying charges, forcing jump balls or snatching steals, her intensity has especially stood out ever since the No. 18 Michigan women’s basketball team’s charged-up rivalry win against Michigan State.
“I challenge our team because I tell them they’re the ‘all-soft team,’ ” Barnes Arico said after beating the Spartans Jan. 14. “I’ve never had a team that hasn’t gotten charges (like) this season, with the exception of (graduate forward) Emily Kiser.”
Hustle plays earn stickers in Barnes Arico’s system, and at the time, Kiser had the most by far. But ever since that victory, Nolan has amassed quite the sticker collection of her own.
“Coach really challenged us a few games ago (to) really (be) able to get those stickers and make the hustle plays and just play tough,” Brown said. “And I think Maddie is kind of an underrated component of that. She’s always been a really gritty player, tough player, but I think these last five or six games now she’s been able to draw a charge and really get on the ground and do things that don’t necessarily show up a lot in the stats.”
Nolan’s emphatic charges drawn — like Kiser’s — not only excite her team, but also regain possession for Michigan. Those turnovers create opportunities to catalyze runs and flip momentum. Similarly, forcing jump balls disrupts opponents’ flow and gives the Wolverines chances to reset for a new possession.
While Michigan has struggled recently — losing two games in a row last week for the first time all season — Nolan’s intensity has only increased.
Adding to the hustle plays, Nolan has snatched key steals for the Wolverines. Nolan had three steals in each game against both Minnesota and Indiana, sparking fast breaks and transition scoring opportunities. Nolan’s active hands and defensive hustle enabled intercepted passes and stolen dribbles against some of the best guards in the conference.
“I talked about (sophomore guard) Laila (Phelia) guarding the other team’s best player, but a lot of times Maddie gets switched off over to them when Laila is out,” Brown said. “And Maddie also has some tough defensive assignments game in and game out. We give a lot of props to Maddie for what she’s able to bring.”
Nolan’s shooting ability has been clutch at different times throughout the season, whether that was hitting three consecutive 3-pointers to down South Florida, timely triples against Northwestern and Penn State or nailing a shot down the stretch to defeat Baylor. It’s earned her nicknames and is a point of emphasis for opponents’ scouting reports.
But Nolan has proven that ‘Maddie Nylon’ isn’t the only way to describe her. She positively affects the game as a whole even when a certain aspect of her personal game isn’t going well — and that ability stems from her constant hustle.
Amid a December shooting lull, Nolan’s defense never suffered. In foul trouble against Maryland, she was sent to the bench. But she didn’t sit — rather, she stood yelling almost the entire time, directing her teammates on defense and cheering for every accomplishment.
Even in a 4-for-18 dry spell beyond the arc over the last four games, Nolan hasn’t let that affect her, either. She has contributed more than just her staunch defense in those games, diving for every loose ball within reach, snatching tough rebounds away from opponents and stealing errant passes.
Barnes Arico challenged her team to take charges and play hard — and the sharpshooting Nolan has certainly taken that to heart.