Early in the second quarter, senior forward Emily Kiser caught the ball near the top of the key and turned to survey the floor. She spotted senior forward Naz Hillmon under the basket, who had effectively sealed out her defender. Kiser threw the pass, and Hillmon quickly turned and finished for an easy two points. The next possession, the duo did it again.
The twelfth-ranked Wolverines high-low game was unstoppable in Sunday’s 93-54 win against Akron. It didn’t matter if it was Kiser or Hillmon in the high post, or junior guard Maddie Nolan at the top of the key — all of them excelled at finding open teammates in the paint and behind the 3-point arc. As a result, Michigan finished the game with a season-high 22 assists.
“Me and Naz work on it quite a bit,” Kiser said. “And then, playing against a smaller team you’re going to have it. And Naz can catch just about anything. It was open, especially when they were trying to double her. Just that flash.”
The most impressive of Hillmon’s five assists came midway through the second quarter. After catching the ball in the high post, she turned to face-up her defender. A second defender was sent towards Hillmon, and she made the right read, throwing a skip pass to Nolan on the left wing. Nolan hit the open three — her second of the game.
When double teams were sent Hillmon’s way, she consistently picked apart the defense with her passing. At one point midway through the first quarter, Hillmon was doubled in the high post and found Kiser under the hoop for an easy two points.
Hillmon was on the receiving end of passes from the high post as well. She caught a plethora of well-placed passes around the basket — mostly from Kiser and Nolan — which resulted in her shooting a very efficient 7-for-9 from the field.
“We talked about it the other day, especially with Louisville doubling and tripling Naz, trying to get the entry passes from the top instead of from the wing because we felt like it would be a lot tougher to double and triple from the top than from the wing,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Hillmon and Kiser play really well together. They have a great feel for each other, and they both can really pass the ball exceptionally well.”
Hillmon thrived, as usual, in the paint, and took no time to adjust to the new approach of throwing entry passes from the top of the key. It was Kiser, though, that stole the show. She finished the game with a game-leading 19 points — a career high.
With time winding down in the third quarter, Nolan lofted a pass from the top of the key to Kiser in the post, and Kiser swiftly put it up and in. Nolan’s pass encapsulated the unselfishness of the Wolverines’ performance, and the effectiveness of the high-low game against a helpless Zips defense. Kiser’s bucket also capped off a run that saw her score 10 straight points for Michigan.
“She’s worked extremely hard on her back-to-the-basket stuff. I think we saw that in the third quarter when Naz came out of the game and Emily scored 10 straight points,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s just a kid who’s worked extremely hard in her career. So for her to be having her senior season the way she is, I’m really proud of her.”