After its game against Iowa was moved a day back due to weather, the Michigan women’s basketball team had less than 48 hours to prepare for Wisconsin.
That proved to be enough time, as the Wolverines (14-9 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) defeated the Badgers (11-12, 2-9), 76-70, Sunday afternoon in Madison despite a slow start.
Just over a minute into the game, while handling the ball in the left corner, sophomore guard Deja Church lost her footing and hit the ground. It didn’t end up as anything serious, but she still sat out for the next five and a half minutes. The Wolverines adjusted by putting junior forward Akienreh Johnson on the court.
Michigan fed the ball to senior center Hallie Thome quite frequently early on. This paid off, as she led the team in the first half with eight points. Besides Thome’s success, though, the Wolverines’ offense looked unconvincing in the opening frame. Regardless, they led, 17-14, heading into the second quarter and never gave up the lead.
The start of the second quarter was more upbeat for Michigan, as the team went on a 6-0 run. First, freshman guard Amy Dilk found Thome down low, who converted a reverse layup. Next, Dilk missed a layup, but freshman forward Naz Hillmon was nearby for the putback. And then Church showed off her finishing touch while attacking the basket with authority, to give her team a 23-14 lead.
Then came the drought.
Over two and a half minutes went by with neither team scoring. Things picked up again for both sides after the media timeout with less than five minutes to go in the half, and the Wolverines maintained the upper-hand at the break, with a 32-22 advantage.
Hillmon led Michigan in scoring with 20 points. She made a big impact during the third quarter with back-to-back three-point plays to give her team momentum. Her success was sparked by Dilk, who finished with eight assists.
“(Dilk) was incredible — hard to take off the court,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico to WTKA. “Just really saw Naz, was able to get her the ball. Just a tremendous job. She’s a really special player for us.”
Michigan’s lead from the first half was enough to keep it out of real trouble, but there were some scares.
The Wolverines’ margin reached 16 points in the fourth quarter. But Wisconsin countered with a 8-0 run to cut the deficit to single digits. Thome — who was playing with four fouls — notched a layup to end the run, but the Badgers kept fighting and made it a six-point game.
Thome soon converted another basket, and then senior guard Nicole Munger drained a 3-pointer from the top to give her team a nine-point lead that pretty much settled things. Wisconsin tallied a few desperation buckets in the last minute to shrink the deficit, but it wouldn’t matter.
“For her to be able to come in the game and do that was just really incredible,” Barnes Arico said of Thome. “ … When the game is on the line, it’s nice to be able to go to your seniors and really count on them.”
This win well-served Michigan’s confidence, as it’s the team’s first conference win on the road and second win in a row.