Fresh off of a tournament championship at the Gulf Coast Showcase, the No. 17 Michigan women’s basketball team looked to build on its early success against unranked Miami in its ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup.
And much like their last two wins, the Wolverines (8-0 overall) pulled away in the second half to defeat the Hurricanes (6-3) in a physical battle, 76-64.
“We knew they were going to be scrappy and really come at us,” fifth-year wing Leigha Brown said. “So I think as a whole we did a really good job of not falling into that and just keeping our composure and handling their pressure.”
Despite intense defense from Miami at the get-go, graduate forward Emily Kiser led an offensive charge for the Wolverines. On seven of their first nine points, she either scored or assisted on the play. She was all over the court, sinking a 3-pointer from the wing, taking a charge in the paint and knocking the ball loose near half court. And with Michigan turning the ball over five times in the first five minutes, it needed Kiser’s production on both ends of the floor to keep it afloat.
The Wolverines and Miami were evenly-matched in the first quarter, both shooting 6-for-13 from the field. But the Hurricanes’ aggressive defensive style led to eight free throw attempts for Brown, which she capitalized on, giving Michigan an eight-point lead at the end of the quarter.
“(Brown) was unbelievable in the first quarter,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA after the game. “… I was a little nervous because they were pressuring her 94 feet, if she was going to be able to keep up that pace. But she did an outstanding job, … and when we needed a play to be made, she was able to make it for us tonight.”
But after Michigan went cold in the second quarter for nearly four minutes — in which it committed six turnovers — Miami capitalized on a technical foul called on Barnes Arico to cap off an 11-0 run and take its first lead of the game.
“(The technical foul) was a little bit of a surprise,” Barnes Arico said. “But I thought our team really responded well and we handled adversity all night.”
To break the drought, Brown sank a pull-up jumper to send the Wolverines on an 8-0 run of their own, regaining the lead and taking a three-point lead into the locker room.
With back and forth play continuing out of the intermission, Michigan needed a late game spark. Partway through the third quarter, sophomore guard Greta Kampschroeder drew an offensive foul and made a wide-open corner 3-pointer to extend the Wolverines’ lead. The tide began to turn and they held a nine-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Although 3-point shooting played a key role, Michigan’s ability to exploit Hurricane fouls was even more crucial.
“I think that especially with how many fouls we were able to draw, (we got) them in foul trouble,” Brown said. “It’s really important to capitalize on those opportunities.”
That’s exactly what the Wolverines did, shooting 24-for-26 from the charity stripe. Brown scored 12 from the line herself, finishing with a team and season-high 26 points.
And in a scrappy, physical battle, Michigan once again pulled away in the second half to remain undefeated.