INDIANAPOLIS — Coming out of the locker room, the No. 4 Michigan women’s basketball team needed to generate some offense. Tied at 30 with No. 5 Northwestern, the Wolverines had to stay on their toes to secure a win.
Instead, things fell apart.
In Michigan’s first — and final — game of the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines couldn’t capitalize on momentum created in the first half, leaving them susceptible to defeat in the third quarter.
Firstly, offensive production ground to a standstill in the third. Starting the quarter with a missed 3-pointer from senior forward Hailey Brown, Michigan failed to score for the first three minutes, giving Northwestern an opening for a 6-0 run.
Hailey Brown continued to struggle from the 3-point line throughout the quarter, going 0-for-2 from behind the arc.
The first points of the quarter came from junior wing Leigha Brown, who attacked the basket on a drive and grabbed her own rebound for a putback. Brown only scored two more points on the remainder of the game, adding up to a below-average 10 points.
Sophomore guard Maddie Nolan picked up three fouls — but no points. Without a valuable contribution from her, the Wolverines struggled through the lineup to find someone to spark the offense.
Hillmon contributed four points, the remaining half of the eight points the Wolverines would score in the entire quarter. Her individual success was indicative of the game as a whole. Unable to produce offensively, Michigan relied too heavily on Hillmon in the paint.
“We had a bunch of opportunities and missed some chippies,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “And they came down and scored on those possessions, and we kind of got down and frustrated a little bit because we were missing such easy baskets. I think that gave Northwestern a little bit of the swing.”
Secondly, Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam came alive. After Leigha Brown struggled against Northwestern guard Victoria Burton throughout the first half, the Wolverines switched to zone defense early in the third. Michigan tried to stem the bleeding with tactics that’d been effective against the Wildcats before.
“We played zone against them last week, and it was pretty effective so that was part of it,” Barnes Arico said. “The other piece of it was Hailey having three fouls — we thought they would really try to attack her in man-to-man, so we were trying to save her from picking up that early fourth foul.”
But their efforts proved to be fatal. Pulliam picked up an easy eight points in the third — as many as the Wolverines’ entire lineup.
Burton remained a stable presence, scoring four points in the quarter. With Hailey Brown on the bench, junior forward Emily Kiser was left alone in the paint to defend Burton’s drives.
Hampered by issues on both ends of the floor, Michigan couldn’t recover fast enough to overcome the losses sustained in the third quarter. Eventually, Northwestern’s offensive success proved to be too much for the Wolverines, losing 65-49.