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Senior guards Amy Dilk and Leigha Brown are still out with lower-body injuries. Senior forward Naz Hillmon didn’t make the trip to Mt. Pleasant due to a non-COVID-19 related illness. Michigan’s returning role players and incoming freshmen were already seeing the floor consistently, but in the wake of Hillmon’s absence they were thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire.

“We definitely needed people to step up,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “When you lose 20 points and 10 rebounds we were wondering where we were going to get the offense and where we were going to get the rebounding. Those were two things that we really had talked about prior to the game.”

The Wolverines proved to have more than enough offensive firepower against Central Michigan, putting it away with ease, 69-45. A plethora of career-highs in scoring — from senior forward Emily Kiser, senior guard Danielle Rauch and freshman guard Laila Phelia 一 showed that Michigan has a deep roster, and a variety of scoring options on all three levels. 

With Hillmon out, Kiser was given touches in the post that would have normally gone to Hillmon. She made the most of these, using a variety of moves and technical footwork to pick apart Central Michigan’s undersized frontcourt.

Still, Kiser didn’t start the game in an offensive groove. She missed her first three attempts, in part to double teams sent her way by the Chippewa defense. This changed midway through the first quarter, though. Receiving the ball with her back to the basket, Kiser turned over her left shoulder and released a hook shot that found the mark. After this make, the game seemed to come easier for Kiser. She finished by making six of her final nine attempts en route to a career high 16 points.

Rauch also got it going on the offensive end for the Wolverines. With time expiring in the second quarter junior guard Maddie Nolan fired a pass to Rauch, who was waiting behind the 3-point arc with no defenders in sight. Rauch beat the buzzer and found the mark, sending the Wolverines into halftime up 20.

“I thought Danielle Rauch was super aggressive and so was Emily Kiser,” Barnes Arico said. “They came out and they just led us. You know, backs against the wall and they said give me the ball I’m going to make a difference. They were just tremendous for us.”

Phelia was the final Wolverine to finish the game with a career-high in points. In the first quarter, Phelia took her defender off the dribble and blew past her in the blink of an eye. With a Chippewa defender waiting in the paint, Phelia stopped on a dime and pulled-up from mid-range — sinking the shot. 

Although she finished the game with 12 points, Phelia struggled in the paint throughout the contest. Getting by her initial defender was not a problem, but once she was in the paint she had a hard time finding the basket. Despite her struggles at the rim, Phelia’s jump-shot looked smooth and she could be a regular contributor on the offensive end going forward.

“Laila Phelia can really score the basketball,” Barnes Arico said. “We knew that she was going to come into her own. She just had to do it a little bit faster than we had anticipated.”