Senior forward Naz Hillmon dribbled down the court, passed to senior guard Danielle Rauch on the wing, and immediately cut to the block. Rauch dribbled down to the baseline and fired a pass to Hillmon in the post for an easy layup.
Immediately after that offensive possession, senior forward Emily Kiser took a charge on defense. The Wolverine bench exploded with energy, and Michigan never looked back.
That sequence opened the second-half, showing signs of things to come for the No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team in the second half of its 73-54 victory over UMass Lowell.
Despite Michigan’s first-half struggles, the Wolverines came out of the locker room looking like a different team. The Wolverines went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter, keeping UMass Lowell scoreless for over six minutes. Michigan outscored the River Hawks by 18 points in the third quarter, giving coach Kim Barnes Arico room to rotate in more underclassmen and run the 1-2-2 press the Wolverines have flashed at times this season.
Rauch’s half-opening assist to Hillmon was reminiscent of last year’s Michigan offense — a group that knew how to play cohesively and to each other’s strengths. The seniors’ ability to play as one unit has been shown in glimpses this year, but the Wolverines haven’t been at full-strength without Brown and Dilk.
While the offensive effort improved, the message at half was an emphasis on defense — and turning that defense into offensive opportunities.
“We talked about our defense and how we can use that to change our offensive mindset,” junior guard Maddie Nolan said. “We said it all starts with defense, and I feel like we came out in the second half and got some key stops and that propelled us on the offensive end.”
The final statline backed up Nolan’s words: the Wolverines ended the night with 20 points off turnovers, the majority of which came in the second half.
Senior forward Emily Kiser also took that message to heart, taking three charges, two of which came in the second half.
“I think (Kiser) has a terrific and incredible (basketball) IQ, and really understands what we need her to do for our team to be successful,” Barnes Arico said. “I’m really proud of the way she’s rebounding and getting in there and mixing it up and giving a great rebounding defensive effort.”
Zooming back in on the offense, Hillmon regained her footing in the second half after a slow start to the first. Following an offensive foul in the second quarter, she was visibly shaken up, angry with the referee’s call. After the break, though, she found her composure and notched 10 points, ending the game with 19 points.
“They were beating the heck out of (Hillmon) in the first half,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “I thought she was getting fouled every single time that she touched the ball. And I think she had to relax, because when someone’s banging on you, pushing on you, every single time, you lose your composure sometimes. And I just think she had to take a deep breath and relax and find her momentum.”
Nolan also lit up the 3-point line in the second half. She went 6-for-7 from behind the arc, three of which came in the second half — making a career high six 3-pointers in the game. Her successful shooting also created space in the paint for Hillmon.
Kiser and Rauch also contributed valuable second-half minutes. Kiser recorded her first double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Of those, four points and nine rebounds came in the second half. Rauch added four points and three assists in the second half, towards her total of 10 points and six assists, taking on more of the point guard role with Dilk out.
Michigan’s resilience will be necessary moving forward against better teams. As Big Ten Conference play comes closer, and injury statuses remain unknown, the Wolverines need to stack these sorts of offensive team efforts.