With No. 8 Michigan hoping to make a late push, Nebraska guard Allison Weidner made a driving layup with 3:19 left in the game with few bodies in the paint to defend her, extending the Huskers’ lead to 14 and sealing the victory 90-71.
The Michigan women’s basketball team’s defense struggled to find a rhythm in its loss against Nebraska. As such, Wolverines could not hold off the Huskers’ scoring runs.
Nebraska came out hot, starting out 4-of-5 from the paint. With that knockdown start, Michigan struggled to find its footing defensively.
And even if the Wolverines could make rare stops, Nebraska doubled down on second-chance scoring. Michigan failed to snag defensive rebounds, getting outboarded 42-34 and ceding 17 second-chance points.
By the time the dust of the first quarter settled, Nebraska amassed a 19-8 lead off 9-of-14 shooting. The Wolverines’ glaring issues down low led to 16 of those points, compounded by the Huskers’ physicality.
With a chance to make a change between quarters, Michigan found itself in the same defensive rut. Nebraska added to a supercharged 11-0 run carried over from the first quarter. As Nebraska hammered away at the paint, the Wolverines could only watch them drain layup after layup.
“I thought we would settle down, but they were really disruptive,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told WTKA. “They were super aggressive and they rebounded the heck out of the ball.”
Many of those disruptions affected unfamiliar sources. Senior forward Naz Hillmon struggled defensively in the first half, going a team-low minus-15 in the first half. Though that burden doesn’t fall entirely on her, though, as her usage constantly put her under the fire from Nebraska’s red-hot paint offense. She would still finish with a team-high five defensive rebounds despite struggling to shut the Huskers down.
Still, Michigan regained its defensive composure in the second half, holding Nebraska scoreless for its first two minutes. The Wolverines focus on squaring up to start the half gave them room to narrow their deficit to single digits.
Husker center Alexis Markowski ended that momentum swing. In her first career start, she scored 13 of her 20 points in the third quarter, hitting 4-of-5 from the field. Her aggressive attack left Michigan struggling to defend her, taking three fouls as they tried to cool her down.
And when the Wolverines finally got ahold of Nebraska’s runaway scoring down low, they neglected the perimeter. In the second quarter, the Huskers drained late jump shots. Then in the third, they sank 3-pointers with ample room. No matter what adjustments Michigan made, it came up looking for another solution.
“We didn’t get stops on the defensive end and every time we would cut it, they would make a big three or get an and-one,” Barnes Arico told WTKA. “It felt like we were always playing catch up.”
By the time the Wolverines found their defensive game — they only allowed two field goals in the final five minutes of the third quarter – Nebraska had already solidified what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
In effect, Michigan’s early defensive lapses had dug a hole too deep for it to crawl out of.