With just two minutes left in overtime, junior guard Maddie Nolan caught the ball from a driving senior wing Leigha Brown, and without hesitation drilled a 3-pointer. They were Nolan’s first points of the game, but acted as the buoy that kept Michigan afloat in their final moments before victory.
In its final non-conference game of the season, the No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team (11-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) stepped-up against No. 5 Baylor (9-2), winning, 74-68. The matchup in the women’s Hall of Fame Showcase was a rematch of the Wolverines’ Sweet 16 loss last season.
“You can say we had a bad taste in our mouth since last year’s Sweet 16 and just how we ended,” Brown said. “That’s definitely been in the back of our minds this whole season, especially knowing they’re going to be on our schedule for sure.”
From the get-go, the game was close, with both teams trading field goals. Each team tried to pull away with runs in the first quarter, but were unable to do so, setting the narrative for the rest of the game.
With aggressive defensive performances from each team, the second quarter opened with a scoring drought. But swiftly, Baylor’s stout defense was undermined by a strong Michigan offense. Highlighted by sophomore forward Cameron Williams’ immediate impact off the bench, Michigan took the lead, heading into the locker room up 33-29 at the half.
While aggressive paint defense from the Bears held senior forward Naz Hillmon to just six points in the first half, multiple players stepped up to fill the offensive gaps. Dominating the boards, Michigan ended the game with 29 second-chance points while holding Baylor to three.
“I thought we got out-toughed,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “The difference was the second-chance points. Their physicality on the glass — obviously we’re small, especially at the guard position, and I thought as the game went along, we did better at that. But I think that was the biggest difference.”
Opening the third quarter, the Wolverines seemed as if they’d extend their lead and sink the dagger in the Bears’ backs. But Baylor had other plans.
Late in the third, Hillmon picked up her fourth foul, forcing her onto the bench for the remainder of the quarter. With Hillmon out, the Bears found new life. After a strong Baylor finish to the quarter, the Wolverines were struggling to hang on.
And in the top of the fourth quarter, a made jumper from Bears guard Sarah Andrews tied the game up. Ensuing back and forth possessions kept any one team’s lead at bay. For each shot Michigan made, Baylor had an answer.
After a continuous back-and-forth, a lay-up from Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith and another jumper from Andrews brought the Bears’ lead to two points with just one minute remaining.
It seemed as if Baylor would finish it out.
Instead, in the final minute, Hillmon nabbed an offensive rebound and fired it to Brown. Kiser flashed into the post and made a layup to tie the game back up — Kiser’s first points of the game.
With just 22 seconds left in regulation, Hillmon picked up her fifth foul, expelling her from the game. Baylor had one final chance to close out the game, but two consecutive missed shots ended regulation knotted at 59-59.
“I was really proud of the way that our team battled through some adversity,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “During the course of the game, things didn’t really go our way a number of times, and when (Hillmon) fouled out, we obviously could have folded but we found a way to keep coming back.”
Opening overtime without Hillmon, it was unclear if the Wolverines would be able to regain momentum. But Brown stepped up in Hillmon’s absence, driving into the lane for pull-up jumpers, draining shots at the free-throw line and dishing it off to Nolan for the 3-pointer.
“Nolan actually was on the bench for a long period of time,” Barnes Arico said. “But for her to go in and have the confidence to take it and make it down the stretch, I knew that she was going to because she’s done that in big games all season. She’s our best shooter on the team.”
Nolan’s deep three was answered with a Baylor 3-pointer, cutting the Wolverines lead to one. Every trip down the floor was important for each team.
With just under one minute left, the Wolverines led by two. Baylor had a chance to rewrite the story. Instead, a missed layup from Smith kept Michigan in the lead. Forced into fouling to stop the clock, the Bears failed to persevere. Nolan drained two free throws to extend the Wolverines’ lead to four — putting the final nail in the coffin.
After the nail-biting loss last season to Baylor, Michigan wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass them by. After 33 opportunities to beat a top-five ranked team, for the first time as a program, the Wolverines have done it.