After senior guard Amy Dilk’s leg injury against IUPUI, the No. 11 Michigan women’s basketball team’s (2-0 overall) match-up with St. Francis Brooklyn (0-2), was the Wolverines’ chance to prove it could compete without her.
From the opening tip, Michigan showed it would, winning the game, 82-46. Senior forward Naz Hillmon opened the game with back-to-back layups in the post, followed by a fast break bucket from senior forward Leigha Brown. The 6-0 run set the Wolverines up for success for the rest of the first quarter, and the remainder of the game.
Without Dilk, the Wolverines needed someone to step into the point-guard role. Senior guard Danielle Rauch took on a majority of the ball-handling as she did last year when Dilk didn’t travel to the NCAA Tournament. Junior guard Maddie Nolan also stepped up. The pair formed a sort of win-by-committee style of offense that proved to be successful.
“(Rauch) is really good at directing and just communicating with everyone around her which makes it so much easier,” senior forward Kiser said. “It’s a big role to be in obviously, but I think they did a great job today.”
The early lead allowed Michigan to give its underclassmen early playing time in the game. Brown also left the floor early in the first quarter to get checked by a trainer and never returned, making space for the underclassman.
Throughout the first half, freshman guards Laila Phelia and Ari Wiggins, along with freshman wing Jordan Hobbs, all saw ample amounts of time. Coming out of halftime the Wolverines had a 35 point lead, allowing the freshmen to remain on the floor for a majority of the second half. The three combined for 20 points and seven rebounds.
Sophomore wing Elise Stuck and sophomore forwards Whitney Sollom and Cameron Williams also saw the floor. The sophomore class has been overshadowed by the freshman to start the season, but their increased time in the rotation establishes them as a valuable piece of the Wolverines’ depth.
“Tonight we were in a position for everyone to get some minutes,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Anytime you have an opportunity for everyone to get out there and get some minutes it’s good to see game minutes and give them game experience. I thought some people really stepped in and gave some positive minutes.”
On the defensive end, Michigan forced early turnovers, ending the first half with six steals and 13 Terrier turnovers. Kiser established her presence early in the post, keeping St. Francis Brooklyn forward Ally Lassen out of scoring position. Kiser ended the game with nine points, 12 rebounds and two steals — just one point away from her first career double-double.
“That’s something we talked about this week, was having the confidence for (Kiser) to shoot it,” Nolan said. “She made two last week and then missed a couple and stopped shooting, so we talked about ‘Emily you’re going to need to score for us to be successful’ and I think she really took that and ran with it this game.”
In the end, St. Francis Brooklyn couldn’t keep up with the Wolverines offensively. Michigan forced the Terriers into a scoring drought that lasted nearly half of the second quarter and continued to plague them throughout the second half. St. Francis Brooklyn struggled to produce in the paint, settling for missed 3-pointers. They went 5-for-23 from behind the arc.
The scoring effort was split throughout Michigan’s lineup. Hillmon led the team with 19 points, generating the majority of the Wolverines’ offense as usual. Despite the leading team in scoring, Hillmon’s points felt quiet as she only played a total of 26 minutes, well below her average of 33.8 minutes per game last season. Nolan and Rauch each added 10 and eight points, respectively.
Overall, Michigan’s bench proved vital to the win over the Terriers. With Dilk out, the Wolverines need to continue to cultivate its depth. If Dilk and Brown remain injured throughout the season, the win-by-committee style of Saturday’s match-up will likely be the game plan moving forward. The more practice Michigan can get with their rotation now, the more comfortable they’ll be in the long run.