In the third rendition of a budding rivalry, Michigan toppled Baylor in a tight, back and forth game, on the strength of a late run. Grace Beal/Daily. Buy this photo.

As the No. 22 Michigan women’s basketball team faced off against No. 21 Baylor for the third time in 19 months, the intensity of the two prior high-stakes showdowns — both of which went into overtime — was palpable. 

Two seasons ago the Bears defeated the Wolverines in the Sweet 16. Six months later, Michigan got its revenge, upsetting Baylor for the Wolverines’ first-ever win over a top-five team. And on Sunday night in the championship game of the Gulf Coast Showcase, both teams were looking for payback.

In what has become a familiar battle, Michigan (7-0 overall) defeated the Bears (5-2), 84-75, winning the tournament championship. In the process, it asserted its place in the budding rivalry thanks to an 11-0 run in the final two minutes of a tense back-and-forth matchup that saw 15 lead changes.

“I’m 2-1 versus Baylor,” graduate forward Emily Kiser told The Daily Sunday. “It’s funny to have a rivalry versus a Texas team. You never think that would happen. … It’s awesome. It makes it that much more fun to win that one.”

But initially, there wasn’t room for fun on the court. Baylor started off red hot and took an eight-point lead into the second quarter on the strength of high shot accuracy and a strong rebounding presence, neither of which the Wolverines could match.

To open the second quarter, a 3-pointer from Kiser and a layup from sophomore guard Laila Phelia cut Michigan’s deficit to just three points. From there, the two teams traded baskets and momentum. The Wolverines were unable to tie the score until a driving layup from sophomore guard Greta Kampschroeder knotted the game at 29 with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Michigan, fueled by its comeback, took the lead multiple times in the ensuing minutes, but each time Baylor answered, too. The Wolverines, seemingly willed forward by Kiser’s first half stat line of 20 points and seven rebounds, took a two-point lead into halftime.

Building off that slim lead, Michigan’s adjustments showed after the break. Targeting Bears forward Caitlin Bickle and her two fouls, junior forward Cameron Williams scored two quick baskets inside to stretch the Wolverines’ lead. 

Just when it seemed like Michigan might pull away, Baylor answered. The Wolverines found the net from three for just the second time all game, but the Bears answered immediately with a 3-pointer of their own and retook the lead just a few minutes later. The game stayed a back-and-forth battle as the fourth quarter began.

Two quick scores from fifth-year wing Leigha Brown gave Michigan the lead — and seemingly momentum. But just a few minutes later, she picked up her fourth foul after Baylor retook the lead.

Then, Baylor’s mettle failed. On the following play, Bickle was called for her fourth foul. Frustrated by the call, she picked up a technical foul, sending her out of the game for good.

“Going into the game, we knew that we had to go at (Bickle), we had to get her in foul trouble because if we wanted to come out with that win we were gonna need her on the bench,” Phelia said. “I feel like we all came together as a team. We knew we had to go ahead and attack her. Cameron Williams and Emily Kiser, they all did a great job.”

But the Bears still managed to build their lead without Bickle, and the Wolverines found themselves down six with just over four minutes left in the game, cueing their ultimate comeback run.

Michigan pulled within one on a 3-pointer from senior guard Maddie Nolan and harnessed that momentum to take the lead — and ultimately the game.

“Our kids have battled back (from) being down in the last couple games… played with so much confidence and so much heart,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA after the game. “And (I’m) just really proud as a coach.”

In the final minutes following that 3-pointer from Nolan, four of the Wolverines’ starters found the basket as Michigan continuously brought the game further out of Baylor’s reach. All five starters ended the game in double digits, led by Kiser and Phelia, who finished with 26 and 20 points, respectively.

The Bears, held scoreless down the final stretch, turned the ball over numerous times in the final minute, allowing the Wolverines to build upon their lead to secure the tournament trophy.

In a game that saw lead changes and momentum shifts aplenty, Michigan emerged victorious. The Wolverines preserved their undefeated season while winning the showcase championship and maintaining control of a burgeoning rivalry.