In a last ditch effort to tie up the game, junior guard Danielle Rauch inbounded the ball to junior guard Leigha Brown. Deep on the right side of the arc, Brown heaved the ball up to the basket as the buzzer went off.
It fell short, and the Wolverines’ (16-6 overall, 9-5 Big Ten) run in the NCAA Tournament ended in overtime against Baylor (28-2 overall, 17-1 Big 12), 78-75.
Michigan made an effort to find senior forward Hailey Brown early, but after missing three early shots behind the arc, Brown finally made her first 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. A dead stare in her eyes, the Wolverine bench went off as the score read 13-14.
Baylor responded, going to the line with one second left and making both free throws. Michigan ended the quarter down 13-16.
Neither side scored in the first three minutes of the second quarter. After a Lady Bears turnover, Leigha Brown cut inside and drained the jumper. Baylor continued to pound the paint as junior forward NaLyssa Smith threatened the Wolverine’s defense. She couldn’t miss, going 6-for-6 in the field and adding a 3-pointer — the third she’s made all season.
It was no surprise junior forward Naz Hillmon kept Michigan in the game, going 4-for-5 and ending the first half with eight points. By the end of the second quarter, the Wolverines shifted the momentum in their favor.
Graduate guard Akienreh Johnson started the second half where she left off, scoring a 3-pointer within the first 30 seconds. Rauch followed her lead, scoring a triple herself. Michigan fought against the Lady Bears’ transition offense, defending hard in the paint and fighting for every rebound.
The second half also saw the resurgence of Leigha Brown, who became the main weapon alongside Hillmon.
“She wants to be a winner,” Hillmon said. “She’s a tough matchup for anybody and I’ve seen it all year long. Three level scorer, defender, trying to get in there for rebounds. She brought a lot to our team.”
Baylor went on an 8-0 run at the end of the third quarter, led by senior guard Moon Ursin. Leigha Brown took over, scoring a layup and stripping the ball from Ursin. Going coast to coast, she drew a foul and scored two free throws.
Down 40-47 going into the fourth quarter, a Michigan victory remained in reach. Brown was the heart of the Wolverines’ offense, scoring a crucial 3-pointer and shortening its deficit to four points.
Brown’s form continued into the final moments of regulation. Scoring two jumpers, she gave Michigan a point game. With 15 seconds to go, Hillmon tied it up and the Wolverines went to overtime.
Hailey Brown gave the Wolverines their first lead of the game with a pull-up jumper in overtime. A back and forth affair, Hailey Brown’s turnover in the final minute gave the Lady Bears the edge after the ball was taken back for a quick bucket. The Wolverines ended with 18 turnovers on the night.
“I definitely think (turnovers) played a part,” Hillmon said. “Some of our turnovers led to their easy transition. Definitely something we wanted to limit, not in this game, but we’ve been trying to limit our turnovers all year.”
Down by three, Johnson dribbled past half-court and threw the ball from deep with a few seconds left, trying to avoid a traveling violation. Rimming out, guard DiJonai Carrington stepped out of bounds with 0.9 seconds left to give Michigan one last chance.
Leigha Brown received the inbound pass four feet behind the arc and launched a shot, but missed short.
“We ran a stagger screen, Leigha got a shot,” Michigan Coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “She had a look. Obviously it was short, it was deep. The game didn’t come down to that second.”
The Wolverines lead never lasted long. Michigan’s performance leaves room to build on for next season as its historic run would end in the Sweet Sixteen.