Over the past two games, the Wolverines have needed someone to step up and direct their offense. On Saturday, they found a pair to do that: junior guard Amy Dilk and graduate guard Akienreh Johnson.
The Michigan women’s basketball team has a few player archetypes that can describe the players. Offensive powerhouses like junior forward Naz Hillmon and junior wing Leigha Brown are the scorers of the offense, while players like Johnson and Dilk are the facilitators of the offense.
While the scorers are usually in the spotlight with the facilitators supporting them, in the 63-58 win against Northwestern, the script was flipped. Brown only scored five points, and while Hillmon scored 19, it was a relatively quiet game for her, giving way to Dilk and Johnson’s great performances.
On Senior Night, Johnson scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Her high-scoring night was driven by her ability to shoot from the free throw line, going 13-for-14 on the night. Johnson also knocked down two long-range 3-point buckets. Dilk scored 12 points, fueled by strong 3-point shooting, and also finished with nine rebounds.
It was a refreshing look for the team that had lost three of its previous four games after starting the season by winning 10 games in a row. The Wolverines finished with three players in double-digit scoring.
“Our offense has been kind of stagnant so we’ve been watching a lot of film,” Johnson said. “We know how to score the basketball and we’ve just had to get back to that.”
In a game where the score never felt as close as it actually was, Dilk was one of the most aggressive players on the court. She picked up three personal fouls, and had Northwestern not combined for 21 fouls amongst all of its players, Dilk may have been forced to sit in order to prevent her aggression from taking her out of the game.
In a memorable scene from the third quarter, Dilk received a pass from Johnson and weighed her options for a second before driving toward the basket. Ball in hand as she headed into the post, she was suddenly knocked off balance by a Northwestern defensive player to draw the foul.
The same scene would play out again in the fourth quarter, but Dilk would fail to capitalize on all the opportunities to score. She went 1-for-6 at the line, a stark contrast to Johnson’s precision.
While Dilk struggled at the line, she added another dimension to her game with 3-pointers. For a player who averages less than two 3-point attempts per game and has shot 27.3% from behind the arc throughout the season, Dilk shot 3-for-4 in the first half. She wouldn’t attempt another 3-point shot in the second half, but her first half performance was important for generating the team’s momentum.
With the regular season over, the performance of Michigan’s supporting cast will become even more important. When defenders focus on shutting down Hillmon and Leigha Brown, two of the best offensive players in the Big Ten, they leave themselves wide open for facilitators like Johnson and Dilk to step into that role.
And as seen against Northwestern, they won’t hesitate to score.