With 6:33 left in the first quarter, senior forward Naz Hillmon faked out the Cardinals defender, freezing her, before making a wide-open layup. This play gave the Wolverines a 7-2 lead early, and it would be the only positive momentum Michigan experienced all evening.
The No. 12 Michigan women’s basketball team ultimately fell Thursday night to No. 10 Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 70-48.
After the Wolverines’ hot start, the Cardinals responded with a 13-0 run of their own. This was a result of their strong defense in the first quarter, grabbing six defensive rebounds and holding Michigan to nine points on 15 possessions.
“I definitely think playing here is way different than playing at home,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
Michigan was held to 33.3% shooting in the first quarter, only making one field goal in the final 6:33. The Wolverines ended the quarter trailing 15-9.
Michigan continued to struggle offensively, not scoring a single point in the first five minutes of the second quarter. Louisville’s six defensive rebounds during this stretch allowed them to make quick transitions for easy lay-ups. These transition scores catalyzed a 12-0 Cardinals’ run to start the second quarter.
Michigan’s first points of the second quarter came from Hillmon in the form of a smooth turn-around shot with 4:40 left in the half. The Wolverines fought to get back into the game, cutting the lead to 15 as its defense got its feet underneath it and made a few stops in a row.
Their chances to claw back would be short-lived, however, as the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run to end the half. Louisville held Michigan to six field goals in the first half on 26.1% shooting, and more than doubled the Wolverines’ rebound totals — 22 to 10.
“I definitely think (Louisville’s crowd) made a difference when their fans got behind them in the second quarter,” Barnes Arico said.
The Cardinals came into today’s game with only one player averaging double digit points per game, but Louisville had two players score more than 10 points in the first half: Engstler with 13 and Kianna Smith with 14.
In the third quarter, the Wolverines began to pick up the pace offensively, shooting 4-for-9 from the field and scoring 10 points in the first five minutes of the second half. The Cardinals, however, kept pace to nullify the marginal improvements and take a 49-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I think it was important for us to one, not quit and continue to battle and to figure out a way to score against a really great defensive team, because that’s something that we’re going to need to be able to do moving forward,” Barnes Arico said.
Thursday’s game proved a benchmark for a Michigan team that had otherwise performed toughly through adversity in its early-season stretch. It served as a reminder of where it needs to be and what can happen with just a few momentary lapses on defense or offense.