Michigan earns first Big Ten win over Minnesota
Monday afternoon, the Michigan women’s basketball team (10-4 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) looked to get back on track after having lost its conference opener to Nebraska a few days prior.
The Wolverines did just that, defeating No. 12 Minnesota (12-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) at the Crisler Center, 76-60.
“I think, for the most part, we were just having fun out there — playing at home in front of our crowd,” said freshman guard Amy Dilk. “Coming off the Nebraska game we were out to get one.”
From the moment the game started, it appeared Michigan would have its work cut out. The Golden Gophers planned on extending their undefeated record and would not go down without a fight. They brought the hustle on defense, constantly pressuring the Wolverines’ ball-handlers and allowing for nothing easy.
Michigan’s defense had trouble containing Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell early, due to her silky handles, no-look passes and solid finishing touch.
Dilk answered for Michigan, though, with two baseline drives that helped her team hold a 15-13 lead at the end of the opening frame. She finished with 14 points.
“(Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico) told us, before the game, be aggressive and find ways to impact the game,” Dilk said. “So, when I saw the open baseline I took it, and I took that to my advantage the second time as well.”
Tension and nerves affected both sides in that first quarter, and as a result, each team committed three turnovers by travelling.
That tension carried over into the second. But after a series of turnovers and missed shots for both teams, senior guard Nicole Munger gave her side a spark, draining a three from the left wing to put the Wolverines ahead, 22-20.
That triple forced a timeout for the Golden Gophers, but it was of no use. Michigan came out more energized after the break and used Munger’s triple as the foundation of a 21-2 run.
“It necessarily wasn’t the best shot at all. But I saw her (the defender) backing up, and I just took a chance,” Munger said. “And luckily went in, because I probably would have been sitting on the bench if it didn’t.”
Added Barnes Arico: “She’s a kid that if we find her, we believe she’s gonna knock down shots.”
The Wolverines defense played a crucial role in fueling that run too, as their press caused turnovers which lead to transition buckets. Michigan led, 40-22, at halftime.
Whatever hope Minnesota had of making a comeback disappeared, for the most part, following intermission. The Gophers allowed senior center Hallie Thome to score two buckets right away, which widened the gap. Thome continued to excel, finishing with 14 points.
“Hallie Thome is obviously one of the best players in our league,” Barnes Arico said. “And I think we really count on her leadership and her ability to score, her ability to rebound, her ability to affect the game for us.”
Overall, things went as planned for the Wolverines, and the victory helped them bounce back.
“We felt like we lost the game — which is never a really good feeling — just ‘cause we didn’t play well at all,” Munger said of the loss to Nebraska. “But I think that the team battled back. And you saw this team’s grit, and this team’s toughness and the team’s fight. There’s no quit in us. So, I was really proud of how everyone responded.”