Naz Hillmon could not be contained.
The freshman forward was already on the move the moment her freshman point guard, Amy Dilk, collected the defensive rebound. Dilk’s cross-court pass found Hillmon in stride, and she converted the wide-open layup.
From there the Michigan women’s basketball team (8-3) never looked back en route to a 70-47 win over Morgan State (1-10).
Though the Wolverines started slowly, with a few sloppy possessions and bad shots, they showed their superiority as the first quarter went on.
Hillmon’s introduction into the game catalyzed Michigan’s improvement. After senior center Hallie Thome left the game due to back spasms, Hillmon came in to fill the void. Two put-backs off of offensive rebounds, the transition layup, and a well executed move in the post gave Hillmon eight points in the first period.
Sophomore forward Kayla Robbins and junior guard Akienreh Johnson also gave the Wolverines good minutes off the bench. In one sequence, Robbins, standing at the free-throw line, delivered a pinpoint bounce pass to the cutting Johnson who finished through a rotating defender.
In the second quarter, Michigan was far less prolific offensively. Despite bringing a nine-point lead into halftime, the Wolverines only mustered nine shots, while turning the ball over six times.
“I just think we need to get better with our decision making and our passing,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “And even if our passes aren’t great, we have to make sure we come with two hands and try to save the ball. Balls got knocked out of our hands a little bit. So it’s a point of emphasis everyday and we’re still trying to improve with that.”
Following the break, Michigan began to pull away. Sophomore guard Deja Church led the way with a contested runner in the lane and a slashing layup within the first three minutes of play.
Defensively, the Wolverines’ length and activity was causing Morgan State all sorts of problems. Other than a few transition layups, the Bears were largely kept at bay. Michigan’s half-court defense was stellar all afternoon.
“Coach always tells us that you can win a game if you score one point and the other team scores none,” Hillmon said. “So we’re really trying to work on our defense every day in practice and in every game. Something that we don’t consider one of our strengths, but if we can work on it every day, and get a little bit better, it’s beneficial for us. It’s something we want to keep trying to build on.”
Hillmon punctuated the team’s second-half performance with an offensive rebound and an and-one early in the fourth quarter, bringing her tally for the game to 11 rebounds and a team-high 17 points.
“It’s amazing to think she’s only a freshman,” Barnes Arico said. “To have those numbers is pretty impressive in 25 minutes of play. She’s just a special kid. She continues to get better and better as the season progresses and I think it’s just nice to see her gelling with the rest of the team.”