A tenth of a second left on the board and the ball off the fingertips of Iowa sophomore guard Kate Martin, the Hawkeyes extended their lead to 19 points going into halftime. After a five hour delay due to COVID-protols, No. 12 Michigan (13-3 overall, 8-3 Big Ten) couldn’t find their rhythm, losing 89-67 to Iowa (13-7 overall, 9-7 Big Ten).
The Wolverines had difficulty defending the 3-pointer and the Hawkeyes took advantage of it. Iowa went 10-for-16 from behind the arc in the first quarter, with freshman guard Caitlin Clark going 4-for-7. Clark finished the half with 14 points and seven assists.
Junior guard Naz Hillmon led the way for the Wolverines, scoring 14 points in the first half and going head-to-head against Clark. Michigan not only had trouble defending the 3-pointer in the first half, but shooting it as well. Michigan went 2-for-11 for 3-pointers, with senior forward Hailey Brown giving the team a spark with a combo in the second quarter.
“That’s something that we’ve been talking about and emphasizing over the last week,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Getting back to our groove, pre-pause. It’s a work in progress but it’s nice to see Hailey (Brown) be able to make a combo because she really can hit him from out there.”
The Wolverines couldn’t catch a break, struggling against the Hawkeyes’ 2-3 zone defense. The second quarter also witnessed the loss of sophomore guard Maddie Nolan and junior guard Amy Dilk to foul trouble. Sophomore guard Michelle Sidor offered Michigan a spark off the bench with two assists but couldn’t contribute her notable 3-point shooting.
Chest bumping her teammates, Martin headed to the locker room after firing a shot from the corner. After the review, Iowa was given a buzzer beater 3-pointer, ending the half with a 49-30 lead.
“We had worked on that,” Barnes Arico said. “We knew that’s what they were going to run at the end of the shot clock. We didn’t do a good job of defending it.”
And they didn’t stop.
The Hawkeyes went 4-for-4 for a 3-pointer in the first three minutes of the third quarter. The Wolverines couldn’t respond and continued to have trouble with the zone defense. The only way to decrease their deficit was from the line.
Junior guard Leigha Brown went 10-for-10 from the line, ending the game with 16 points. Michigan went on a 9-0 run in the third quarter, highlighted by Leigha Brown and junior forward Emily Kiser’s free throws. Still Michigan found itself in a 30 point deficit, ending the quarter, 47-77.
The Wolverines still lacked offensive continuity in the fourth quarter. Hailey Brown and Nolan scored back-to-back from behind the arc halfway through the quarter, but it was too late. The damage was done. The Hawkeyes ended the night going 16-for-27 for 3-pointers. Clark’s stellar shooting night drove at the hearts of the Michigan defense and made her case for Big Ten Player of the Year.
In a tireless day with many uncertainties around tipoff, the Wolverines lacked the ability to score in different situations: inside the paint, behind the arc and in the transition.
“Our guards really tried to force things initially and tried to make things happen instead of making extra passes,” Barnes Arico said. “Once we settled down we seemed to shoot the ball a little bit better.”
Hillmon scored eight of Michigan’s ten points in the first quarter. The team continued to heavily rely on her throughout the game. Iowa not only shot the ball well but they exposed the Wolverine’s weaknesses—tonight showed that their reliance on Hillmon may be it’s greatest.