Junior forward Naz Hillmon let out a booming scream after being awarded an opportune and-one, which had fallen into a 12-point hole in the second quarter. Two quarters later, Hillmon let loose another shout after hitting a layup to cap off a 10-0 run to bring the game within five points. It was a valiant effort to reignite momentum, but it would all be in vain as No. 11 Michigan’s (10-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) late comeback fell short 81-77 against No. 17 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), costing the Wolverines their undefeated record.
Hillmon’s Michigan-record (men’s and women’s) 50-point performance wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s inconsistent offense and defensive struggles.
“Her ability to score the basketball, to catch the basketball is incredible, and when you’re not making any outside shots, we just started running everything for her,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We needed every one of those (shots) tonight.”
The Wolverines were playing from behind for most of the game, a first for the team this season. Ohio State’s defense held them to 33 points in the first half and forced many missed shots in the first quarter, giving way to a 12-0 run by the Buckeyes.
Despite Hillmon’s eruption from the second quarter onwards, Michigan’s offense struggled as a whole. A recurring motif throughout the game was the Wolverines’ inability to make 3-point shots — the team finished 2-for-20 from behind the arc, while Ohio State finished 7-for-22. The passing game had a few errant balls in the beginning, but cleaned up as the game progressed. Players like fifth-year senior guard Akienreh Johnson and sophomore guard Maddie Nolan would frequently get open looks as a result of double teams on Hillmon, but struggled to capitalize on those openings.
Michigan played the entire game cold from anything further from the basket than a layup. Senior forward Hailey Brown, one of the more consistent shooters for the Wolverines, went 2-for-10 from the field and Nolan, who finished the last game with 21 points, had zero.
Only four players scored for Michigan: Hillmon, Johnson, junior guard Amy Dilk and Brown. The unavailability of junior wing Leigha Brown, who is second on the team with 19.7 points per game, contributed to the limited offense.
“It’s tough when you lose a guard scorer like that, and everybody else has had to pick up on their (own) a little bit and tonight we weren’t able to do that,” Barnes Arico said. “I think when we get healthy and we have everybody on our roster we’re going to be a pretty special team.”
Hillmon’s cry of passion ignited the team, which cut the Ohio State lead from 12 points to four points in just three minutes. Michigan would go on a 13-0 run over the end of the third and beginning of fourth quarters to counter a 10-0 run by Ohio State in the third, but it wasn’t enough for the team to finish in the final moments of the game.
While Michigan is still one of the stronger teams in the Big Ten, the loss against Ohio State exposed the team’s inefficiencies. Ultimately, Hillmon’s monstrous performance wasn’t enough to carry the team over its third ranked opponent of the year thus far.
Hillmon gave more than her all today, but the team failed to step up and subsequently lost.
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