With four seconds left in the third quarter, Michigan junior center Izabel Varejão went past two defenders in the paint to hit a layup through contact and the ensuing free throw to make it a 71-52 Wolverine lead. This brought the Wolverines’ bench to their feet.
In an easy road win in its first Big Ten game, Michigan was able to give minutes to players that hadn’t seen the floor as much this season. Highlighted by Varejão, the bench was vital to the Wolverine’s victory.
The No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team (9-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) won Thursday night against Wisconsin (2-8, 0-2) in Madison, 93-81.
“We’re trying to find areas that we are growing in,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “And that was really important.”
The Wolverines started the game with a 5-0 run, emphasized by a wide-open 3-pointer from senior forward Danielle Rauch. Rauch was hot early, scoring five points in the first five minutes.
The Badgers cut it to a 7-4 game with 6:51 left in the first, but Michigan responded with a 10-3 run, making the score 17-7. Then both teams exchanged shots, leading to a 22-13 Wolverines lead.
Michigan started the second quarter on a 9-2 run to push the lead to 16 points, an insurmountable one they wouldn’t let up.
Badger forward Julie Pospisilova then faked out the defender to hit the jumper and cut it to a 10-point game.
The Wolverines had a quick response from senior forward Naz Hillmon, as she boxed out the defender inside the paint for the layup and hit the and-one. She finished the game with 21 points.
Michigan held Wisconsin to one field goal in the final four minutes and 40 seconds of the first half. This was a result of the Wolverines’ stingy defense. Their defense was highlighted by a nasty block by senior guard Leigha Brown, who finished the game with 13 points and six defensive rebounds.
Michigan would go into halftime leading 43-31. The Wolverines’ 12 second-chance points starkly contrasted Wisconsin’s zero. This came from Michigan out-rebounding the Badgers 19-9 with nine offensive rebounds.
“(Wisconsin) was still fighting and clawing down the stretch,” Barnes Arico said. “They’re a program that is trying to build. I’ve been there before I know what that’s like. They weren’t going away the entire time. So I thought (Wisconsin) battled really well.”
In the third quarter, the Wolverines struggled shooting early in the second half, going 0-for-3 from the field. This allowed Wisconsin to hit two layups early to cut the game to eight with 8:57 left in the third.
The slump was short lived, as Rauch hit her second 3-pointer of the game. She was one of four players who scored in double digits.
“We were just trying to push the pace a bit,” Rauch said. “When we got it to Naz (Hillmon) early, she was able to do more out of it when the defense wasn’t there. I think that helped with the turnovers a lot.”
Michigan performed the best in the third quarter, with zero turnovers and 28 points on 66.7% shooting to open the lead to 71-52 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We really try to focus on taking care of the ball,” Rauch said. “We had seven turnovers in the whole game. That was (the best) since I’ve been at Michigan.”
In the fourth, Rauch hit her third 3-pointer of the game. She finished the game with a career-high 18 points. This was her first double-digit performance in the past four games and a career high.
“I think the past few games I haven’t been too aggressive and offensive minded,” Rauch said. “I just wanted to come in and set the tone early and let the game come to me.”
The Wolverines pulled their starters early in the fourth quarter, leading to the Badgers out scoring them 29-20.
Despite Wisconsin out-scoring the Wolverines in the final quarter, Michigan cruised by with a 93-81 victory.