Coming off a historic win against Notre Dame on Thursday, the Michigan women’s basketball was confident going into its game Sunday against Wright State.
Yet the Wolverines (4-0) showed they still have work to do in a 82-59 victory over the Raiders (0-2).
Wright State’s inability to make shots and Michigan’s own efficient shooting saved the Wolverines from sloppy play — turnovers, questionable passing and allowing second-chance shots on defense.
Junior guard Amy Dilk had a momentous first quarter, earning the 300th assist of her career. Still, as it did against the Fighting Irish, Michigan struggled at first with turnovers, giving up the ball seven times in the first quarter. All told, Dilk and junior forward Leigha Brown finished with five and four turnovers, respectively.
“We let them speed us up a little bit,” Rauch said. “We wanted to settle back down, get back to running our stuff, go back to what was working, and just play our game.”
Michigan continued to hit their shots, though, through the first quarter, ending with Dilk finding junior guard Danielle Rauch for a 3-pointer to close it out.
Down low, the Raiders’ defense frustrated junior forward Naz Hillmon early on. Starting the second quarter with only three points, she made up for that slow start by going eight-for-eight from the line and ending the half with 14 points and six rebounds.
Hillmon’s early troubles weren’t the only thing indicative of Michigan’s struggles under the rim. Outrebounded on its own glass, Wright State’s 26 offensive rebounds led to 26 second-chance points. The difference came from a Wolverine team experimenting with a zone defense for the first time this season.
“We wanted to make sure we protected the paint and tried to take away their paint touches,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “It was better, except for the fact that it gave them the opportunity to rebound the basketball well.”
Standout performances from Brown, Dilk and Hillmon in the second quarter gave Michigan the edge, ending the half with a 48-27 lead.
Brown was the difference in this matchup, coming into the second half buzzing. Whether it was a layup or jump shot, her versatility in shot making and play creation furthered Michigan’s lead. She led the team with 24 points.
Brown’s ability to score is crucial, but not the only way she affects the game.
“I thought she helped us on the rebounding end tonight,” Barnes Arico said. “She helped us with her toughness and she was able to get out and transition a bunch with the ball in her hands and finish some great plays. She had a great night.”
The third quarter came with a switch in momentum, with the Raiders outscoring the Wolverines 19-10 in an attempt at a comeback. Wright State had 20 offensive rebounds going into the fourth quarter, while Michigan had just eight.
The 12-point margin heading into the final quarter wasn’t as large as it should have been on paper, but in the final quarter the Wolverines at last put their struggles behind them.
“Once we settled in and moved the basketball and executed some stuff, we had some tremendous possessions in the fourth quarter, where we really looked good,” Barnes Arico said. “I thought that was important there. They were super physical and tried to take us out of what we wanted to do.”
In spite of the flaws Michigan came out strong in the fourth and found a way to extend its lead, putting the game out of reach.
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