With 1:24 left in the first half 一 in just her fifth possession on the floor 一 freshman guard Ari Wiggins stripped the ball from IUPUI guard Rachel Kent. She glided down the court and easily banked in a layup. Sensing a momentum shift after going down five thanks to Wiggins’s basket, the Jaguars called a quick timeout. Wiggins did not let her foot off the gas, coming out of the timeout guarding the ball full-court.
It was moments of defensive intensity like this that led to the No. 11 Wolverines eventual 67-62 overtime victory over IUPUI. However, their defense was still far from formidable.
Michigan regularly missed rotations in its half-court defense, allowing the Jaguars to hang around in a game they had no business being in. With the game tied at 58, the ball was swung to IUPUI wing Rachel Kent with just 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Michigan junior guard Maddie Nolan couldn’t close out fast enough and the possession resulted in an open 3-point attempt that nearly cost the Wolverines the game.
The Jaguars had so many open 3-point attempts because the Michigan defense was focused on IUPUI’s star forward, Macee Williams. Williams — the defending three-time Horizon League Player of the Year — drew all of the Wolverines’ attention in the post. This led to the Jaguars’ shooters, who went 10-for-27 from behind the arc, being left open on the perimeter when Michigan couldn’t rotate fast enough.
“We wanted to take (Williams) out of her game, so we were throwing doubles at her, but then we weren’t rotating out quick enough,” senior guard Danielle Rauch said. “Just getting a little more chemistry on the defensive end, so when people go we can rotate out, get out to shooters, and contain the dribble a little bit better than we did tonight.”
The same ineffective half court defense was on display for most of the game. Senior wing Leigha Brown had difficulty staying in front of opponents on defense all night, somewhat accredited to her injury. With 7:28 left in the fourth quarter, Brown hit a pull-up jumper to put the Wolverines up eight. After her shot fell through the hoop, IUPUI called a timeout 一 and Brown very noticeably limped over to the Wolverine bench.
“She’s just been battling back. She hasn’t been 100%,” Barnes Arico said. “When she gets 100%, she’s going to be back in the rotation. But, she stepped in and did a great job for us tonight.”
Brown did step up on defense when needed, though. At the end of the first half, she swatted a Jaguar 3-point attempt that resulted in the possession ending in a shot-clock violation.
While Michigan’s half-court defense was far from great, their full-court defense was superb. Barnes Arico implemented a 1-2-2 full-court trap that gave IUPUI trouble all night.
The first time the Wolverines ran the trap, freshman wing Jordan Hobbs and senior forward Naz Hillmon effectively trapped Kent, resulting in a jump-ball which gave Michigan possession.
This full-court trap was run sporadically throughout the rest of the game. In overtime, Barnes Arico subbed Wiggins and freshman guard Laila Phelia in only for defensive possessions. This move paid off, and the Wolverines held the Jaguars to just four points in overtime.
“Our freshmen are super athletic, and quick and really great on the defensive end,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought they really provided a spark for us, and that trap changed the tempo for sure.