Moments before senior guard Hailey Brown left the court, the team huddled together. The message was clear. Get to the line and make your shots.
In its second game back from the 14-day pause, the Michigan women’s basketball team struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, eventually losing, 65-70, to No. 14 Indiana. The lead changed four times throughout the quarter as the Wolverines searched for a player to take over the game. Michigan had only three scorers with junior forward Naz Hillmon and junior guard Leigha Brown scoring seven and four points, respectively.
The Wolverines went 3-for-14 from the field. When the team looked to its outside shooters, no one answered. With the game tied 61-61 and three minutes left, sophomore guard Maddie Nolan found the ball at the top of the arc. Throwing the ball up, the bench rose to their feet only for it to bounce off the backboard.
“When you have four fouls and you’re in foul trouble, you’re not as aggressive on the offensive end,” fith-year senior guard Akienreh Johnson said. “(Indiana) is a team that likes to take charges and they were very physical with us. They got in the paint a lot and that’s where we get most of our points.”
The only way for Michigan to fight their way back was from the free throw line. In the fourth quarter, Hilmon went 5-for-6 from the line and Leigha Brown went 2-for-4. However, the Hoosiers went 9-for-10 from the line with guard Grace Berger going 8-for-8. Berger scored six of Indiana’s nine points in the final three minutes, single handedly earning the Hoosiers the five point lead.
“I think we have some really good looks, I just think we didn’t make them,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “It may have played a factor in that way late in the game.”
The missed pullup jumpers and poor 3-point shooting allowed Indiana to rebound and get fouled. With the ball in Berger’s hand, there wasn’t much Michigan could do other than hope that she missed her free throws. Indiana presented a rare challenge for Michigan as they boasted their physicality and played off the Wolverines emotions. Calls went both ways as players were thrown to the ground and knocked off their feet.
Cramming tough opponents like Michigan State into a packed schedule and then playing away against isn’t easy. Fatigue and physical fitness played a part in the Wolverines lack of ability to make shots in the field and execute their game plan. But for a team to find success in the impending post season, it needs to keep its eye on the ball from start to finish.
“We had played Tuesday in a tough contest as well,” Barnes Arico said. “We had a quick turnaround and then played today. I don’t know there are many teams that ever do that.”
Michigan died out in the final moments of the game. Hillmon turned over and a missed pullup jumper by Johnson in the final seconds of the game, which carved another loss for the Wolverines.
Yet, the opportunity to redeem themselves still stands.
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