The No. 4 Michigan women's basketball team lost to Northwestern in double overtime, 71-69. Emma Mati/Daily. Buy this photo.

The Michigan women’s basketball team needed to right the ship.

Reeling from Thursday’s loss to Michigan State — a heated matchup against its in-state rivals and the first game without injured senior wing Leigha Brown —  the Wolverines had a chance to prove that result was a fluke. And facing a middling opponent in Northwestern seemed to be a perfect opportunity.

Instead, the ship capsized.

In a back-and-forth game that ended in double overtime, the Wolverines (20-4 overall, 11-3 Big Ten), riddled with foul trouble, lost their second straight game to the Wildcats (14-9, 9-3), 71-69.

“It was a great battle, a great basketball game,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “… We didn’t make the plays that they did to win the game.”

From the get-go, everything went wrong for Michigan. Senior forward Naz Hillmon drew her second foul midway through the first quarter, relegating her to the bench for the rest of the first half. 

With the game plan revolving around trying to draw the mismatch in the paint against a smaller Wildcats team, having Hillmon stuck on the bench was far from ideal. But the Wolverines were unbothered, instead leaning on earlier minutes from sophomore forward Cameron Williams. 

Then Williams picked up her own two fouls, and things started to look bleak.

Quickly forced deeper into its rotation, Michigan never quite recovered from losing Hillmon and Williams so early. After a hot start in the first quarter, the Wolverines cooled down on offense and clung to their struggling defense to keep them afloat.

“We’re without our big time guard player in Leigha Brown and I think that really changed the dynamic of everything,” Barnes Arico said. “And we went from being really deep to not being so deep when you lose one of your best scoring guards, one of your best passing guards and her length defensively.”

The scramble to replace a deadly paint presence revealed a bright spot: junior center Izabel Varejão, who scored nine of Michigan’s 12 points in the second quarter. But Varejão’s success came at the expense of Hillmon’s playing time and any hope of establishing a lead. The teams entered the half tied at 32.

Coming out of the locker room, Hillmon finally returned to the floor, hoping to help find some consistency on offense. Instead of picking up the pace, she picked up her third foul, keeping Michigan’s hope for a run in check. The Wolverines only gained a five-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

Falling into a lengthy offensive drought in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines gave up their minuscule lead off an and-one from Northwestern guard Jillian Brown’s driving jumper in the paint.

Despite missing the free throw, the momentum shift carried the Wildcats through the remainder of the fourth quarter — and both overtime periods. As the regulation clock trickled down, the Wolverines struggled to surpass Northwestern.

A late 3-pointer from senior guard Danielle Rauch put Michigan back in the game. A subsequent turnover from the Wildcats on the inbound even gave the Wolverines a chance. Calling a timeout to draw up the final play, Michigan was just 15 seconds shy of completing its redemption arc. Making a pair of free throws, Rauch tied up the game, sending it to overtime.

Trading buckets, both teams failed to pull away, seemingly notching more fouls than points as whistles rained down on Welsh-Ryan Arena. As both teams failed to capitalize on game-winning opportunities in the first overtime, the matchup headed into another frame.

More fouls gave countless opportunities for free throws, keeping the game tied throughout the majority of the second overtime. Rauch nailed a step-back 3-pointer from the wing, tying the game up once again. With seconds left on the clock, Michigan tried to find Nolan on the wing for a game-winner. Instead, she fouled Northwestern guard Veronica Burton, sending her to the line with the chance to win.

And so despite a late three from Rauch, a series of fouls plagued the Wolverines just like they’d plagued Hillmon in the first half.

And as Burton drained both free throws, the Wolverines watched the ship sink beneath the waves.