Thursday night, the Michigan women’s basketball team looked to get its first road conference win of the season.
That was set to be a tall task as the Wolverines were slated against No. 22 Iowa — a squad led by forward Megan Gustafson, the nation's leading scorer — but despite the odds Michigan trailed by just three points at halftime.
After the break, though, the Hawkeyes turned it up a notch. They started to push the tempo and saw results. Fewer than three minutes into the quarter, they drained a triple from the left corner to make it a 10-0 run.
The Wolverines called a timeout but never recovered. Iowa (13-4 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) widened the gap, handing Michigan (11-7, 2-4) a 75-61 loss — the team’s fourth loss in its last six games.
“Through our growth process and through our improvement is the decision-making when other teams are going on a run,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico to WTKA. “… We called a timeout. We tried to regroup, I mean, we had a better fourth quarter but we were down a little bit. And we scored in the fourth quarter; we just couldn’t get the stops that we needed to get.”
Contrary to recent games, ball handling wasn’t an issue. Prior to the game, the Wolverines averaged a whopping 16.7 turnovers per contest, but against the Hawkeyes, they lost the ball just seven times.
Rebounding was not alarming either. Michigan was outmatched by just four boards while the team actually won the battle for offensive rebounds.
Shooting, however, was a key problem. The Wolverines went 1-for-15 from beyond the arc, with the lone 3-pointer coming at the start of the final quarter.
The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, excelled at shooting. Michigan often double-teamed Gustafson, but that left her teammates open. They finished the game shooting 57.6 percent from the field — a step up from Michigan’s 41.8 percent.
“We miss a lot of shots and we gotta get better at finishing some of those shots too,” Barnes Arico said. “And then we gotta get some key stops when we need to, and I think we need to understand the sense of urgency with that.”
The game was set to be a battle between senior center Hallie Thome and Gustafson.
Gustafson had the upper-hand to start the game. She scored from under the basket on her team’s first offensive possession and then further imposed her will by blocking Thome on the other end. Thome would fight back, but Gustafson still led her team with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Iowa’s guards added to the offensive clinic, showing off their ability to attack the basket early. This — coupled with Gustafson’s success — helped the Hawkeyes establish a five-point lead a few minutes into the contest.
Freshman forward Naz Hillmon soon checked in, though. She missed a shot from close right away, but got her own rebound and capitalized on the second-chance opportunity to give her team a spark. She finished with a team-high 16 points.
Less than a minute later, Hillmon dove to the floor to win a loose ball around midcourt. This led to a bucket from junior forward Kayla Robbins.
Sophomore guard Deja Church then followed suit. She immediately stole the ball near midcourt and took it to the basket to give her team a 16-10 lead.
But the Hawkeyes countered with a 6-0 run to tie the game at the end of the opening frame. The remainder of the first half was a balanced affair, but ultimately, it wouldn't matter.
“There’s a lot of places where we definitely are improving and definitely are making strides,” Barnes Arico said. “We just haven’t seen them in the win-loss category yet. But I think it’s really important for us to stay positive. … We don’t want to get too down and hang our heads.”