With 30 seconds on the clock and Indiana pushing the ball, the Hoosiers looked poised to cut into the Michigan women’s basketball team’s 63-58 lead. But then Nicole Munger stepped in. Literally.
With four fouls to her name, the senior guard planted her feet and took a charge right near the basket to give the Wolverines the ball back, effectively icing the game.
“It’s Munger,” said junior guard Akienreh Johnson. “Everybody else was probably like, ‘Wow that’s amazing.’ But she does that every day.”
Thanks to Munger’s hustle play and strong performances from Thome, who had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Johnson — who stepped up in the absence of injured freshman guard Amy Dilk, going for 16 points and seven rebounds — Michigan (8-6 Big Ten, 17-9 overall) got a come-from-behind 67-58 victory on Thursday night against Indiana, its fifth straight win.
The Wolverines started off the game strong, jumping out to an 8-2 lead in the first three minutes, thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers from Johnson and sophomore forward Hailey Brown. A few minutes later — following freshman forward Naz Hillmon’s layup, a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Deja Church and a Johnson jumper — Michigan extended its lead to 18-10.
Then things started to change. Quickly.
From the final 2:22 in the first period until nearly two minutes into the second quarter, the Wolverines failed to score. The Hoosiers (6-8, 17-9), meanwhile, put together an eight-point run during that same stretch to tie the game. Johnson finally ended the scoring drought for Michigan with a layup in the low post to go up, 20-18.
But things didn’t change much for the Wolverines after that. During the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan could only muster six points.
“We (talked) about (how) we kind of went away from what was working,” Johnson said. “So we had a lot of transition and we went away from that. I think it might have been a little bit of fatigue and a little bit of like we didn’t think that we could keep getting the shots that we were getting.”
Indiana, meanwhile, got everything it wanted. Following the Johnson layup, the Hoosiers and Wolverines traded a pair of baskets each before Indiana went on its second run of the game, registering nine straight points during a four-minute run at the end of the second period. Thome rescued the Wolverines with an up-and-under layup with 21 seconds remaining, cutting the deficit to five going into the half.
A big reason for Michigan’s struggles late in the first and throughout the second quarter was turnovers. After committing just three turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game, the Wolverines committed another three in the last two minutes of the quarter. Then, in the second quarter, Michigan recorded four more turnovers in the first 4:20 of the period. The Hoosiers totaled 12 first-half points off turnovers.
Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico attributed much of the turnover issues to the team missing Dilk.
“Amy was probably averaging about 35 minutes a game and she had the ball in her hands, especially under pressure,” Barnes Arico said. “A lot of decision making came through her and now we’re putting Deja there, we’re putting Akienreh there, putting Nicole there, (freshman guard) Danielle Rauch a little bit at times in that spot. … And now teams are pressuring us.”
Coming into the second half, it looked like not much had changed for the Wolverines. After allowing an Indiana layup, Michigan then proceeded to turn it over on its first possession after the break.
But, as quickly as things changed for the worse in the first half, they changed for the better in the second.
Highlighted by Brown’s second 3-pointer of the night, the Wolverines put together a 7-0 run of their own to tie the game at 35.
The rest of the quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the two squads trading basket after basket. Then, with seconds remaining, Munger caught the ball in the corner and knocked down a three as time expired to give Michigan a 51-48 lead heading into the fourth.
In what continued to be a tense battle, the Hoosiers and Wolverines exchanged blows in the final period.
With Michigan clinging to a 58-57 lead, Thome converted a spinning layup while getting fouled to extend the lead to four with just under two minutes remaining.
“In the fourth quarter we brought a huddle in,” Thome said, “and it was pretty close and we said, ‘We’ve been here every game and we know what to do.’ ”
Then, the Wolverines went out and did it.