Maddie Nolan was given the green light by her coaches, and she never took her foot off the gas.
In the Michigan women’s basketball team’s game against Wisconsin — which it won, 69-40 — the sophomore guard started for the first time this season. With junior wing Leigha Brown out still due to COVID-19 protocol, Nolan was the spark the Wolverines needed.
Offensively, Nolan was the leading scorer on Thursday night, notching 21 points — 15 of which came from behind the 3-point line. She broke her career-high of 13 points in just the first half with 14.
Her first two three’s came within just minutes of the opening tip, adding to a growing lead Michigan would never relinquish. Shooting 45.5% from three, Nolan brought a layer of offensive depth the Wolverines needed with junior guard Naz Hillmon heavily guarded in the post. The Wisconsin defense gave up cross-court passes early, and with players continuing to feed Hillmon in the post, Nolan was ready on the opposite wing.
“Naz is a great player, and teams are going to double team her,” Nolan said. “So to have people, not just me, being able to knock down threes, I think that shows how tough it’s going to be to guard us.”
Nolan also displayed her versatility with impressive backdoor cuts to the basket and multiple drive-and-dishes that got her or her teammate’s easy points. Her poise was evident as she monitored her shot selection more and looked to create opportunities for teammates to score.
Before Thursday’s game, junior guard Danielle Rauch had held the starting spot with Brown out. Tonight, Nolan was given that shot and stepped up when the Wolverines needed her. Brown brought a flow to the offense, something that’s been missing since she’s been gone, but Nolan brought that flow back on Thursday with clean passing and good ball movement.
“I talked to (Nolan) a little bit this week with the loss of Leigha and with her coming back,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “You know, just to be confident and just to be aggressive. And just to look at the basket. I thought the last couple of games she really passed up on some open shots, and she’s a really capable scorer.”
Defensively, Nolan contributed three rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Her scrappy nature makes passing hard for guards as she crowds them around the arc and is able to close passing lanes easily.
Last season, Nolan started during the Big Ten Tournament because then-senior Kayla Robbins was injured. Nolan aided the Wolverines in an upset win against Northwestern in the quarterfinals. Since then, Nolan has contributed valuable minutes off the bench but hasn’t had the same breakout game seen in last year’s tournament. Tonight she remedied that.
“Last year gave her an opportunity to really play, and to get experience as a freshman and now her confidence is at another level,” Barnes Arico said. “She’s big, a strong guard, she defends exceptionally well, she rebounds well and she can shoot the ball and that really gave us an option from the outside.”
After her standout game against the Badgers, don’t expect Nolan to see a red light anytime soon.