Up 25 points with five minutes to go against Nebraska, the Michigan women’s basketball team had all but won the game. On any other day, the Wolverines would be content. But tonight was Senior Night, and senior guards Siera Thompson and Danielle Williams weren’t finished with their last regular-season home game yet — so they put on a show.
Williams, who only had one point in the first three quarters, sunk a 3-pointer with three minutes left. Thompson followed suit at the 1:38 mark, and both earned appreciative applause from the crowd. Tonight, that crowd included their families who made the trip to be in the stands. But the co-captains focused on staying humble.
“I didn’t really think about that (shot) during the game,” said Williams. “But it was cool.”
When Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico took Thompson and Williams out with only one tick left on the clock, the fans erupted, showing their gratitude for the Wolverine seniors.
Thompson and Williams are the first Michigan players to spend their entire careers under Barnes Arico, as the duo were part of her first recruiting class. They stepped out of their comfort zones to come to Michigan, with Williams committing from Phoenix and Thompson hailing from Gardena, Calif. Thompson had never even visited the campus before committing.
“They packed their bags and flew across the country because they believed in a vision that Michigan women’s basketball could have,” Barnes Arico said. “For them to leave as seniors, potentially being the winningest players in program history as well as a top 20 ranking, doing things that have never been done before — they are so deserving.”
Neither senior leads the team in points, but they have found other ways to guide the team. Thompson had 140 assists going into Thursday’s game — the most of any current Michigan player. She stayed true to form against the Cornhuskers, tallying five more and adding eight points and three rebounds.
And Williams, who has started in 16 of 29 games this season, shines particularly on defense. She earned four defensive boards — the second-most of all the Wolverines — despite playing just 19 minutes.
Both seniors filled their roles and played selflessly, working hard even though they don’t put up many points. That committed approach made them obvious choices for the captaincy — two years in a row.
“Siera is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time),” Williams said. “She’s so consistent, so calm, and I almost don’t have any words to describe her impact on the program. Every day she is someone to look to who is always cool, calm and collected, but just gets it done.”
Added Thompson: “(Williams) will do anything for you. She puts others before herself, and I think that’s one of the best qualities about her. And that’s why our team is so great. Without Danielle, we wouldn’t be the team we are today.”
The two seniors are part of an undoubtedly successful team. They earned their 22nd win of the season against the Cornhuskers, tying the program record for most wins in a season.
“It’s great to come in and make history and do something that’s never been done before,” Thompson said. “Because that’s what Coach told us. She told us if you follow my vision, you will make history.”
With one game left in the regular season on Saturday against Penn State, Michigan has a chance to become the first team in program history to win 23 games. So, despite the praise, the seniors are not letting themselves get swept up in celebrations just yet.
“I feel like there is a lot of the season left to be played,” Williams said.
Even though their careers are coming to an end, with program history right around the corner, there’s a lot to look forward to.