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Adversity is something that the No. 13 Wolverines are too familiar with. Moments before the game, it was announced that senior forward Naz Hillmon would be out against Central Michigan with a non-COVID-19 related illness. With Hillmon out, Michigan would be down three of its original starters for the season in the in-state matchup. 

But the losses proved a minor setback on Saturday as the Wolverines (3-0) would go on to win 69-45 over the Chippewas (1-2).

Michigan started the game slow, shooting 1-for-4 in the first three minutes of the game. After being down 7-4 early in the first quarter, though, they made adjustments and went on an 11-0 scoring run. This run was highlighted by senior forward Danielle Rauch, who made a nice shot in the paint while taking contact and converted the and-one.

The Wolverines forced five turnovers in the first quarter, which contributed to their early run, scoring seven points off turnovers. Ten of Michigan’s 19 points were from players who came off the bench and Central Michigan was held to two field goals in the final seven minutes of the first quarter, punctuating the change in momentum. 

“I think we’re trying to get better defensively,” Michigan Coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “That’s been a focus of ours for the last few weeks and we’re a work in progress, but I thought we really did that tonight.”

Both teams struggled scoring from the arc early, with both teams shooting a combined 0-for-13 until Michigan sank back-to-back threes by senior forward Emily Kiser and senior guard Danielle Rauch. Rauch finished the game with a career high 13 points. 

The back-to-back threes would lead Michigan to go on a 15-0 scoring run in the second quarter. While on defense, junior guard Maddie Nolan stole the ball from Central Michigan’s Anika Weekes and finished the play with a nice lay-up getting the and-one. Nolan finished the game with a team-high four steals. 

To end the half, Rauch hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take a 20-point lead after a slow first start. The strong second quarter was heavily attributed to the Wolverines’ defense holding the Chippewas to three field goals on 23.1% shooting and forcing six turnovers.   

“Our starting group, Maddie Nolan, Michelle Sidor, and Elise Stuck really did a great job to start defending and we held CMU to 17 points at half,” Barnes Arico said. 

Freshman guard Laila Phelia came up with a nice block late in the third quarter and as her minutes increased she managed to score more, coming up with six of her 12 points in the third quarter.

With both teams struggling to take over the quarter, the Chippewas would end the third going on a 14-6 scoring run, with Weekes sinking a 3-pointer to cut the Michigan lead to 16. 

In the fourth quarter, the Chippewas continued their run with Hannah Knoll scoring five straight to cut the game to 11 and put pressure on the Wolverines to close out the game.

“I think we got tight a little bit offensively and they started to make a couple three’s,” Barnes Arico said.

As the momentum appeared to shift in favor of Central Michigan, a 15-0 scoring run from Michigan put the upset bid on ice. 

“I thought we really established ourselves well there but I thought Emily Kiser did a tremendous job for us on the interior as well,” Barnes Arico said. 

Five of Michigan’s 15 points came from Kiser, who finished the game with a career-high 16 points. Kiser led the way on the defensive side, grabbing seven defensive rebounds and two blocks. Michigan would hold Central Michigan scoreless for 6:24 minutes in the fourth quarter leading to a Wolverines victory. 

“They cut into our lead, but we just had to remember to stay aggressive offensively,” Barnes Arico said.