COLUMBUS — A quick turn, her hips quickly blocking out any defenders’ hope of defending the shot — another two points for sophomore forward Naz Hillmon.
Then, just as quick, Ohio State marauded down the court and nailed a three.
It was a taunting, haunting back and forth throughout the game. The Buckeyes owned the three-point line. The Michigan women’s basketball team, meanwhile, owned the paint.
In the end, the three outpaced the Wolverines’ (11-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) inside dominance on Thursday as Ohio State (9-6, 2-2) won 78-69.
An intense third quarter saw Michigan and Ohio State battling for a lead after a string of threes brought the Buckeyes back into the game.
The Wolverines drew fouls in the quarter, but couldn’t capitalize, shooting 7-for-12 from the line in the third and 65.4 percent in the game.
“We didn’t really finish well today when we were at the line,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “That’s something that we kind of (had throughout the season), up and down days at the line through the course of the season and is something that we work on every day in practice, and we’ve definitely improved, but today wasn’t our greatest night.”
Michigan’s stalwart inside defense kept the Buckeyes at bay, limiting them to just 24 points in the paint throughout the game.
A majority of Michigan’s points in the first quarter came from a fast-paced offense where Ohio State struggled to get set. When it set, however, it was a different story: with the paint clogged, sophomore guard Amy Dilk and senior forward Kayla Robbins struggled to add a second component of offense.
The two attempted to drive to the basket countless times, only to be forced outside and throw up ambitious layup attempts from six feet away. Dilk went 3-for-16 from the field.
For a team like Michigan that scores almost all of its points in the paint, 3-point shooting plagued it once again — on both sides of the ball.
“We’re not a tremendous 3-point shooting team, that’s not the strength of our team,” Barnes Arico said. “And I think people take that away from us. (Junior forward) Hailey Brown couldn’t get going till late, we gotta get (freshman guard) Michelle Sidor to get in there and be able to give us some production from the outside, but (senior guard) Akienreh (Johnson) couldn’t get them to fall tonight.”
Ohio State, meanwhile, did get them to fall.
Starting with a missed interception attempt from Robbins in the final minute of the first quarter that led to an open shot, the Buckeyes found success behind the line no matter the pressure Michigan threw at them — shooting 60 percent from three the rest of the half.
In the second quarter alone, only one field goal wasn’t from three for the Buckeyes. The Wolverines would get a couple of quick layups and seemingly grab momentum, only to be yanked backward by a three in the face of Johnson, or Hillmon, or Brown.
“Of course (the spread offense is) a lot different, a lot more space to cover,” Hillmon said. “Some of that we definitely have to work on because a lot of the bigs in the Big Ten can stretch out like that. So just working on that in games like this will help us in the long run.”
It’s a problem that continues to plague Michigan this season: its offense must be hyper efficient to keep up with an opponent that hits its threes. On Thursday, Ohio State did just that.
Despite that, Hillmon nearly singlehandedly kept the Wolverines in the game, finishing the first half a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and willing them into half with a three point lead, 38-35.
In the first half, it was hyper efficient.
Yet, Michigan couldn’t close the door, leaving it slightly ajar for Ohio State.
As the game counted down, in front of a hostile crowd, the Buckeyes blew the door off its hinges. Two travels led to five Ohio State points in the span of thirty seconds, gifting them late-game momentum that the Wolverines couldn’t take back.
“I think their threes really deflated us,” Barnes Arico said. “They shot the ball really exceptionally well, we’ve done a pretty good job of covering that all year long, we just couldn’t get any momentum going at any time.”
Unlike the Buckeyes, Michigan didn’t have the momentum changer of a three pointer. Unlike the Buckeyes, Michigan couldn’t answer with a big bucket.