Both of the Michigan women’s basketball team’s matchups this past weekend felt closer than its 20-point margins of victory would suggest.

On Friday, the Wolverines demonstrated an inability to hold onto the ball, tallying 19 turnovers and 22 fouls.

“Hailey Brown got in foul trouble early, (Akienreh Johnson) got in foul trouble early, (Naz Hillmon) got in foul trouble,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We’ve got to work on staying out of foul trouble, and we’ve got to work on being able to adjust to the officiating.”

It was an ugly game defined by mistakes, but after a day’s worth of rest and the experience of 40 minutes of basketball, Michigan managed to gain a grip on its mistakes. Against Bradley, it was cleaner — despite still committing 12 turnovers, it limited itself to 13 fouls.

Unlike Friday, there wasn’t a series of five plays in which four ended with turnovers, and a player fouling out on Sunday. There wasn’t five straight possessions that ended in turnovers either.  

Instead, there was precise ball movement. At one moment, Hillmon was able to gather a rifled pass from Brown, before quickly recognizing a triple team and, in the blink of an eye, finding a wide open senior guard Kayla Robbins for a layup.

The precision picked up in the second half Sunday with only four turnovers against nine assists as the stakes grew higher and the Wolverines faced adversity from a comeback push by Bradley.

“The third quarter, they were able to knock down some threes, but I thought the start of the fourth quarter we regrouped and finished the game strong,” Barnes Arico said. “(We) did a better job of taking care of the basketball in the second half, which was great to see.”

Another big part of Michigan’s growth from Friday to Sunday was Hillmon — its star player — making herself a force. She was stifled Friday, fighting against double teams and trying to come into her new role as the focal point of the offense. None of those troubles presented themselves Sunday on her way to a double-double as she racked up 12 rebounds with 10 second-chance points.

“Last game I was really lacking in that category,” Hillmon said. “I just really wanted to go out and just say that every rebound was mine, and really just try to hustle and get to the boards, like offensively and defensively, but really just trying to work in and hustle every play.”

Perhaps it was simply first game jitters, or an adjustment back into the harshness of college basketball, but Michigan’s growth in just one day showed what it was capable of.

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