With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, senior guard Leigha Brown pulled up from the left wing and sunk a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines up 30. It was her third three of the game.
Brown’s 19 points — tied for a game-high with senior forward Naz Hillmon — and lights-out shooting helped No. 8 Michigan (13-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) obliterate Rutgers, 76-47 (7-10, 0-5).
The Scarlet Knights hung around for the first five minutes of the game, but Michigan soon began to pull away. Once the Wolverines switched to their 1-2-2 three-quarter court trap for a few possessions — a move which resulted in back-to-back turnovers — it became obvious that Rutgers was going to have a hard time scoring moving forward.
“We like to press,” senior guard Amy Dilk said. “We like having Naz up there. Kind of just changes the pace of the game, especially against a team like Rutgers who likes to slow it down a lot.”
Michigan’s offense also started to gain momentum as the first quarter came to a close. Hillmon found her way to the charity stripe in two consecutive possessions, sinking all four attempts. Meanwhile, the Wolverines’ perimeter shooters found their mark, with Brown and Dilk each drilling a 3-pointer to finish the quarter.
Michigan’s hot shooting continued over the course of the first half. Junior guard Maddie Nolan poured in four 3-pointers in as many attempts, and senior forward Emily Kiser found the mark from range in the second quarter as well. As a unit, the Wolverines shot 8-for-10 from deep in the first half alone — propelling them to a 44-25 lead at the break.
The success from deep came on the heels of last Tuesday’s loss to Nebraska in which Michigan shot 1-for-12 from range. The quick turnaround shows the confidence the Wolverines have in their perimeter shooting ability.
“I think it messes with their confidence a little bit when they miss a couple,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “So it was really nice to see everyone make some threes tonight and shoot it confidently.”
The shooting display was impressive, but it was the ball movement that led to high-quality shots from deep. Midway through the second quarter, as Brown snuck her way into a gaping hole in the Scarlet Knights’ defense, Dilk found her almost instantly and Brown swiftly pulled up and hit the three.
Clean ball movement was on display yet again for Nolan’s fourth three of the game. With just over a minute left in the first half, Kiser caught the ball in the high post and turned to survey the floor. She threw a skip pass to Nolan, who drained it from behind the arc.
That combination of selflessness and hot shooting helped Michigan amass five of its 13 assists in the second quarter alone.
The success from deep didn’t come at the expense of the Wolverines’ interior game, though. Early in the third quarter, senior guard Danielle Rauch slithered her way into the paint, contorting her body to finish over two larger defenders.
The interior success was also exemplified by Hillmon, who scored with ease despite not carrying as much of the workload, as she normally does. Midway through the third quarter, Hillmon shrugged off a Scarlet Knight on her way to the rim and finished for an easy layup. Minutes later, she bullied her way to the hoop again. She finished through contact and hit the free throw to convert the three-point play.
The Wolverines stayed true to their identity and controlled the paint for the entirety of the game. They outscored Rutgers 34-20 in the paint, and outrebounded them 35-25 en route to the win. After being outrebounded and outscored in the paint against Nebraska, Michigan’s ability to bounce back showed resolve.
“We have to bring our best game and we can’t have lapses,” Barnes Arico said. “And just really be consistent for 40 minutes. Each and every game is the goal, because on any given night, anybody in our league could come at you.”