On the first possession of the game, freshman guard Amy Dilk lobbed a pass from the right wing to senior forward Hallie Thome in the paint.
Thome failed to convert, but it didn’t matter. Sophomore forward Hailey Brown was there to grab the rebound and get her team on the board.
That opening play was a preview of how most of the game would turn out. The Michigan women’s basketball team (1-0) used its physical advantage to defeat Mount St. Mary’s (1-1), 88-40, Friday night at Crisler Center.
Offensively, the Wolverines pushed the tempo from the start. This sense of urgency didn’t result in success immediately, though, as the team missed quite a few early shots.
For instance, Brown had a couple unsuccessful attempts during the first few minutes. However, she kept attacking and the persistence paid off as she finished with 14 points.
“At the beginning of the game, I mean, my shot, it wasn’t falling,” Brown said. “So, if you’re a shooter and your shots aren’t falling, the next option is to drive.”
Five minutes into the first quarter, Dilk dished another effortless lob to Thome. And this time around, she scored. Thome dominated all night with her post play and led the team with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“She knows the game so well. It’s fun to definitely play with someone who has that much of a basketball IQ,” Thome said of Dilk’s passing. “So, I know every time the guards give me the ball, they’re putting me in the best position to score. So, the credit is all to them.”
Despite its offensive success, Michigan’s defense took time to settle in. This resulted in wide-open shots for the Mountaineers, who capitalized to stay in the game. The Wolverines led 12-11 heading into the first media timeout.
Freshman forward Naz Hillmon and junior forward Kayla Robbins hopped on the court after the break. The duo gave Michigan the spark it needed to start putting the game away. The Wolverines soon went on a 7-0 run extending into the second quarter, and resulted in Michigan taking a 43-29 edge into the locker room.
Mount St. Mary’s defense had no answer for the rest of the game. At 6-feet, junior Alexis Wooden was the Mountaineers’ tallest starter, thus they often had to double-team the Wolverines to compensate for the height disadvantage.
Michigan responded frequently with effective passing to find whoever was was left unguarded. The team’s solid ball movement also helped it excel in transition. In addition to Thome and Brown, Hillmon and senior guard Nicole Munger reached double digits in scoring with 10 and 12 points, respectively.
The height mismatch significantly helped the Wolverines with rebounding as well. Michigan finished the game with 46 total rebounds, while Mount St. Mary’s grabbed 26.
As the lead grew bigger, the Wolverines expanded their rotation. Junior guard Akienreh Johnson was the only Michigan player who didn’t get playing time, as she’s recovering from an injury.
Even the newcomers found time on the court, as freshmen made fair contributions. Midway through the third frame, Hillmon fought for a loose ball near half court, pleasing both the crowd and Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico.
“How ‘bout the spark she brought, huh?” Barnes Arico proclaimed. “She just brought a level of intensity and just dialed it up for us.”
Favored headed into the match, the Wolverines were expected to win and did just that. However, there is still an entire season to go for the Wolverines.