Streaky shooting has kept games close in the first half for the Michigan women’s basketball team, as was the case on Friday.
Early shooting woes and ball security issues put the Wolverines in a hole in the first quarter of their 88-53 win against Kent State. They missed their first six shots, with their first basket coming from senior forward Kayla Robbins more than three minutes into the quarter. While the shooting improved, Michigan found itself losing by four after the first quarter. The Wolverines shot just 5-for-14 from the floor and turned the ball over six times.
Foul trouble for the Golden Flashes allowed Michigan to get back on track. Two of Kent State’s three top scorers from last season — guard Megan Carter and forward Lindsey Thall — picked up two fouls in the first quarter and started the second quarter on the bench, and the Golden Flashes had trouble scoring without them.
With both of them off the floor, the Wolverines put together a 14-3 run during the first six minutes of the quarter. Sophomore forward Naz Hillmon and senior guard Akienreh Johnson led the way during this stretch with four points each.
However, Michigan was not able to pull away from Kent State before the half. The Wolverines made only two of their final eight shots of the second quarter and took a 31-25 lead into halftime.
“We’re gonna face everyone’s best shot, and we gotta come out focused and ready to go,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico on a postgame radio show. “I was happy with our ability to keep our composure, and at halftime we regrouped a little bit and talked about ‘Let’s just get back to playing how we can play, and let’s get our confidence back.’ ”
The Wolverines hit their stride in the third quarter. After shooting under 40 percent from the floor and making only 13 shots in the first half, they shot 13-for-19 in the third quarter alone. They were also able to cut down on turnovers, giving the ball away just four times in the second half.
“I thought we got some pretty good shots early that we missed,” Barnes Arico said. “I think we wore them down too. I think we got them in foul trouble too, so we kept being aggressive.”
Johnson was at the forefront of this offensive outburst. Despite shooting just two-for-eight in the first half, she made all seven of her shots in the quarter and totaled 16 points, and Michigan stretched its lead to 23. Johnson finished the game with 21 points — a career high — shooting 60 percent from the floor, and added eight rebounds.
“I just think the momentum changed,” Johnson said. “I realized that right now I’m not finishing on the offensive end, but I knew that would eventually come because I was getting good looks. I was getting good shots, I just wasn’t finishing.”
Hillmon also shot a perfect 3-for-3 in the quarter, adding six points and three rebounds. She ended the day shooting 7-for-9 en route to 14 points and nine rebounds.
While the game was well in hand by the start of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines’ strong shooting continued. With mostly reserves in the game, Michigan shot 75 percent in the quarter and extended the lead to 35.
Despite a slow start, the Wolverines were able to tighten up offensively in order to win their third straight game in commanding fashion.