With 13 seconds remaining in Sunday’s matchup with Ohio State, Michigan women’s basketball freshman forward Naz Hillmon delivered a game-winning layup, completing a 12-point fourth quarter comeback in a 62- 58 victory.
In their only regular season contest against one another this season the Wolverines (12-7 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) defeated the Buckeyes (7-9 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) in what was a thrilling, scrappy game thanks in large part to Hillmon and senior guard Nicole Munger.
After scoring 19 first quarter points, the Wolverines seemingly fell asleep for the next two quarters, only scoring a combined 18 points. Then the fourth quarter came, and everything changed.
“We were talking about, in the third quarter, how we couldn’t have been playing any more (tightly),” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We were really low energy at that point, with the exception of Nicole. We said, ‘We have to get some stops if we’re going to win this game.’ … So we started to score and I think when we started to score we gained some confidence back.
“They were scoring with us at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but then they got tight. And I think us scoring, our fans behind us, the crowd getting rowdy, we were able to get stops. And not only were we able to get stops, but we came up with the rebounds. And I think our kids were really selling out, doing everything they could to come up with those rebounds down the stretch.”
Michigan entered the quarter down nine, but quickly battled back to cut the lead to six with 6:15 remaining in the game. It then rattled off three straight layups to tie the game before an Ohio State three with 1:36 left on the clock.
On the ensuing possession, Munger calmly knocked down a three to yet again tie the game and send Crisler into a frenzy.
The Buckeyes failed to convert on their next possession as senior center Hallie Thome blocked an attempted floater with 41 seconds on the clock. For their final possession, the Wolverines found Hillmon on the right block to give Michigan the lead for good.
“That’s just our team fighting back,” Munger said. “Being at home helps so much. The crowd was incredible. It was nice. The crowd made it happen. The team played really well and went out and grinded. It’s just a lot of fun. We did it together. That was what was most important. They couldn’t stop Naz inside, so we kept going to her. Hallie had such a day. Her block at the end there isn’t something a lot of people are going to remember but it was game-changing. I think everyone played such an important part in this win and that’s what makes it so incredible. So kudos to everyone down the line. 1-14. Proud of us.”
Hillmon, who came off the bench only 1:45 into the game after Wolverines sophomore forward Hailey Brown got into early foul trouble, left her mark scoring eight first quarter points while shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor.
In the second quarter, Michigan struggled to find the basket. Hillmon scored twice in the first three minutes of the quarter but, after that, the Wolverines didn’t score again until Thome converted a hook shot in the low post with 2:45 remaining in the period. And while junior guard Akienreh Johnson followed Thome’s shot with a 3- pointer just a minute later, outside of those four buckets, the Michigan offense could get nothing else going.
On top of the lack of scoring, the Wolverines committed 11 first half turnovers and nine team fouls, seven of which coming in the first quarter.
However, Michigan still clung to a one-point half time lead, 28-27, thanks to a strong defensive showing in the second quarter, holding Ohio State to 5-for-14 from the field.
Then the third quarter came.
In front of what had been a raucous crowd in the first half, the Wolverines came out flat in the third quarter, not scoring until a pair of Hillmon free throws with 4:15 remaining and not making a field goal until the final minute.
While Michigan shot a mere 2-11 from the field, the Buckeyes, meanwhile, went 6-10 and dominated the Wolverines, forcing five turnovers and outrebounding Michigan nine to seven.
“I think we had too many turnovers, we were trying to force the ball,” Barnes Arico said of the team’s struggles. “Now here’s the opposite side of ok (we’ve) got all these great post players and we’re trying to get them touches, but everyone in the country knows that we’re trying to get them touches. So they’re packing the paint. Extremely packing the paint. And we’re still throwing the ball there. And we were forcing it instead of getting ball movement, instead of getting better touches.
“So that’s why I think we struggled with our turnovers, really weren’t getting good shots and struggled without movement of the basketball. And that’s kind of a work in progress. It’s something that we know we have to get better at but we’re gonna keep working on it.”
But, after Munger knocked down her third 3-pointer with 18 seconds to cut the lead to nine, the Wolverines suddenly had life heading into the final quarter.
Munger scored nine of her 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch three point to tie the game immediately following an Ohio State three with just over a minute remaining in the game.
The rest is history.