As time ticked down in the second quarter, an unsteady Michigan team looked to find its footing. A Nebraska 3-pointer — drained from far behind the arc — fell through the hoop with grace.
Any hopes the Wolverines had of a comeback crashed down with it.
The No. 8 Michigan women’s basketball team (12-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) saw its five-game win streak end with a 79-58 loss to Nebraska (13-1, 2-1). In their first conference loss of the season, the Wolverines couldn’t overcome a dominant Cornhusker team, looking lost on both ends of the floor.
From the get-go, Michigan struggled to find an offensive rhythm, a narrative that would quickly unfold throughout the first quarter. The Cornhuskers took advantage of an early scoring drought by the Wolverines as they set a quick tone for a physical, fast-paced game — one that Michigan couldn’t match.
The initial scoring deficiency was indicative of Michigan’s offense throughout the entire first half. The Wolverines couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 30% from the floor. Their struggles also extended beyond the 3-point line, as they shot 0-for-4 from behind the arc in the first half.
“I thought we took a lot of quick ones, a lot of pull-ups,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA. “We settled for pull-ups, which we were unable to draw any fouls on. We were settling, not really moving the ball, not really getting into rhythm.”
The Cornhuskers’ early lead only continued to grow as Michigan slipped further and further away from its typical high-caliber play. With 22 points in the paint, they left the Wolverines without answers down low.
On the opposite block, senior forward Naz Hillmon had her worst game of the season thus far. Scoring just five points in the first half, Hillmon couldn’t find her footing amidst a sea of Nebraska defenders.
Ending the first quarter with a comfortable 13-point lead, the Cornhuskers looked at ease with the pace of play — as opposed to an out-of-sorts Michigan squad.
“I thought they were just super aggressive and were able to jump on us quickly,” Barnes Arico told WTKA. “We didn’t get shots to fall early and we didn’t get stops on the defensive end. … It felt like we were always playing catch up.”
Nebraska started the second quarter with consecutive 3-pointers in transition to extend the lead. Controlling every aspect of the game, the Cornhuskers flustered the Wolverines on both ends — including with a full-court press that led to 19 points off turnovers in the first half alone.
Trying to stem the tide with a variety of lineups, Michigan rotated through its many upperclassman shifts, scrambling to find an answer. Senior guard Amy Dilk saw the floor for the first time since suffering a leg injury in the first game of the season. But even with new looks on the floor, Hillmon continued to struggle in the paint alongside senior guard Leigha Brown, who ended the first half with just four points.
Coming out of the locker room, the lid was partially lifted off Michigan’s basket as the Wolverines went 3-of-4 from the floor. Yet, the change of pace was short-lived as the Cornhuskers soon regained control.
The damage had already been done.
Poor shooting continued to plague the Wolverines, who went 1-of-12 from three and shot just 37% overall. Fouls also hampered Michigan, forcing different lineups onto the court to preserve key players. It didn’t keep them at full strength, though, as senior forward Emily Kiser fouled out late in the fourth, while Nebraska’s full-court pressure continued to fluster the Wolverines’ guards.
“I don’t really get disappointed when we lose — if we play to who we are and our identity,” Barnes Arico told WTKA. “And tonight I thought we got out-toughed a little bit.”
Despite a Michigan run to end the third quarter and a strong start to the fourth, the Wolverines’ belated improvement was simply too little too late. As time continued to slowly tick down, so did Michigan’s ability to mount a comeback, ultimately running out the clock to their first conference loss.