With nine seconds left in the second quarter, a fast break for Maryland had begun to form. Terrapins forward Angel Reese looked to get a last second layup before the end of the half to trim the deficit. But Michigan senior forward Naz Hillmon was back defensively and made an emphatic left-handed block inside the paint to deny Reese’s shot and keep Maryland from scoring.
The Wolverines’ defense found a rhythm early in its victory against the Terrapins, spurring a 69-49 victory. As such, they forced Maryland into taking difficult shots and were able to force turnovers.
“I thought our lock in and focus on the defensive end was absolutely incredible,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
The Terrapins started the game scoring 11 points, shooting 5-of-7 in the first four minutes of the game. It certainly wasn’t the defensive start that Michigan was looking for.
The Wolverines made adjustments early in the game, as they put more of a focus towards defending the paint. This proved successful as after starting 5-of-7 from the field, Maryland finished the remainder of the game shooting just 11-of-44.
Michigan put an emphasis on defending the paint, making the Terrapins take a number of outside shots. Maryland was also silenced on the offensive glass, held to zero offensive rebounds in the first quarter and unable to muster second chance points.
The Terrapins offense is predicated around getting rebounds off the glass, as they lead the Big Ten with 15.8 offensive boards per game. Reese leads the nation in offensive rebounds with 5.4 boards per game, so stopping her was critical to the Wolverines success.
Michigan was able to achieve this as they held her to one offensive rebound in the first half, which came in the final seconds of the second quarter. That was a concerted effort.
“Are we going to be able to rebound the basketball with them because they’ll miss shots, but sometimes they’ll just go get their offensive rebound and be able to put it back in there,” Barnes Arico said. “Obviously (Maryland’s) one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country as well. So I thought we really did an amazing job on defense and then finishing the play by rebounding.”
The Wolverines made a statement on defense in the second quarter, too, holding the Terrapins to one field goal in the entire quarter on 1-of-9 shooting.
“I just thought we were unbelievable,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought we set the tone. I thought we scrambled for each other. I thought we rebounded. I think our experience and lock in was just tremendous.”
Their strong defense was a result of the ability to force turnovers and put pressure on Maryland’s best offensive player. Reese, coming into the game averaged 18.2 points per game, had zero points in the first half. She shot 0-of-5 and had three turnovers in the first, and ended the game with nine.
Michigan was also able to stop Terrapins guard Ashley Owusu. Owusu came into this game averaging 16.4 points per game, but was held to four points on 40% shooting. Wolverines’ senior guard Maddie Nolan was the primary defender against Owusu.
“I think Maddie did a great job setting the tone on Ashlee early on,” Barnes Arico said. “I think our kids really bought into understanding the personnel, understanding their tendencies, and then scrambling for each other, something that we’ve worked on a lot.”
Nolan’s strong defensive performance forced three turnovers on Owusu. Coming into this game, the Terrapins averaged 11.4 turnovers per game, the fourth fewest in Division 1 women’s basketball. They had thirteen turnovers in the first half alone.
The turnovers and strong first half defense allowed Michigan to go up 34-19.
In the second half, Maryland continued to struggle shooting the ball, as they shot 2-of-16 in the third. The Wolverines nullified the Terrapins offensive rebounding as they defended the inside of the paint, forcing them to take outside shots. As a result of the outside shots, they were held scoreless for periods of 3:38 and 2:43 in the third quarter.
The most memorable moment in the third quarter came when the Wolverines had four players defending slightly outside the paint to stop a turnaround layup.
Michigan’s physicality on the play did not allow Maryland to drive inside the paint forcing them to take outside shots. When the Terrapins grabbed an offensive rebound, they shot a driving layup inside the paint. But the shot wasn’t close, and Kiser snatched the rebound.
That sequence summed up Michigan’s dominating defensive performance.