With the time winding down in the third quarter, freshman guard Laila Phelia found junior guard Maddie Nolan for a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the No. 8 Michigan women’s basketball team a 63-32 lead, something they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Wolverines (16-2 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) won Thursday night against Wisconsin (4-13, 1-6), pummeling the Badgers, 83-44.
“I was really proud of the way that we (played) against Wisconsin,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
In an easy win, the Wolverines profited from an all-around team effort. Seven players scored at least seven points, and three hit double digits.
The game began with both teams exchanging three-pointers to start the game. Like Michigan’s last game against the Badgers, senior forward Danielle Rauch started the Wolverines scoring.
Wisconsin grabbed an early lead off a 3-pointer from guard Katie Nelson with 4:58 left in the quarter, but this would not last long. Michigan responded with five points in the span of 34 seconds from senior forward Naz Hillmon to take a four-point lead.
With time winding down in the first, the Badgers were down four looking to make a shot. Wisconsin passed the ball around its half-court set, senior forward Emily Kiser cut a lane leading to a steal and a three-pointer, as well as a seven-point lead entering the second quarter.
The Badgers hit an early jumper in the first minute of the second quarter to cut the lead to five, but Michigan appeared to finally break through offensively, as they answered with a will-imposing 13-0 run.
During this run, the defense was able to force tough shots and create turnovers. This was highlighted again by Kiser who bodied Wisconsin guard Halle Douglass out of bounds to force a turnover. A few passes later, Hillmon’s scoring tally jumped another two points.
With the momentum favoring the home team, the Badgers looked to stop the bleeding as guard Sydney Hillard hit a layup with an and-one with 3:49 left in the second quarter.
The bleeding did not stop.
Backed by strong depth players such as sophomore forward Cameron Williams, the Wolverines sparked a 12-0 run entering halftime. Despite only averaging 7.6 minutes per game this season, her shooting efficiency leads the team and she used that to finish with ten points in Thursday’s game despite playing just 12 minutes.
“Cameron has been outstanding,” Barnes Arico said. “She understands her role on our team when she comes in and is able to give us the spark of instant offense and offensive rebounding.”
Michigan would go into halftime leading by 27. After allowing Wisconsin to shoot 5-of-11 from the field in the first five minutes, the Wolverines held the Badgers to 2-of-13 from the field the remainder of the half.
Despite a strong start, coming out of the locker room, the Badgers only made marginal gains on the scoreboard to trail 50-26 with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
Michigan responded to this pushback in the five minutes with an 8-0 run and a 13-8 run to end the quarter, reasserting a dominant lead on the back of strong defense.
“I was really proud of the way we especially defended against Wisconsin,” Hillmon said. “They had scored 80 points on us and out rebounded us in the first contest. So this was a real focus of ours, especially after playing Maryland coming into tonight we did an outstanding job.”
In the fourth quarter, the Wolverines controlled the first five minutes with a 14-2 run. Six of those 14 points came from senior guard Leigha Brown as she finished the game with 11 points.
Michigan kept its foot on the Badger’s throats as it only allowed 12 points in the final quarter.
The Wolverines were clearly motivated — in Michigan’s first game against the Badgers, it gave up 29 points in the fourth quarter. This wasn’t something it wanted to do again.
“We didn’t have a successful fourth quarter the last time we played them at their place,” Hillmon said. “We just wanted to pick up our energy and make sure that we played all 40 minutes and knew that (Wisconsin) was going to come out and throw everything they had at us.”
The Wolverines would cruise their way past Wisconsin py putting on a defensive clinic. And Michigan will not win every game by 39, but it knows it needs to execute on a similar level moving forward.
“We know that we have to become a great defensive team to win a championship,” Barnes Arico said. “Part of that is your one on one defense, scrambling for each other, your help side defense and rebounding the basketball which is an important focus for us as well.”