Big start for Big Blue
Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico has emphasized this from her first press conference on Media Day, stressing that it’d benefit every player on the roster to expand their skillset to incorporate more perimeter shooting. On Sunday afternoon against Bradley, the Wolverines successfully executed that exact concept, which ultimately became the main factor in stretching their lead from seven after the first quarter to 17 at halftime, and eventually to a 77-57 win.
Michigan knocked down five three-pointers in the second quarter after limping through a first period that included a six minute stretch without a field goal, and 5-20 shooting overall. Amy Dilk, who began the game 0-for-4 and scored just one point in the opening frame, posted 10 in the second and knocked down a pair of triples. This continues a trend for Dilk of attempting more long-range jump shots — the sophomore point guard attempted six threes in the Wolverines’ season-opening win on Friday against Western Michigan after launching just 24 throughout all of her freshman season.
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“The confidence level is definitely there,” Dilk said. “Seeing the ball go in after many repetitions working on it and then seeing it finally go in in the game is just… it’s awesome.”
The display of versatility wasn’t limited to Dilk, as several other Wolverines joined the barrage from downtown. Junior Priscilla Smeenge contributed two long balls, tying a career high. Sophomore Emily Kiser and freshman Isabel Varejao, both post players, even stepped out and connected from long distance.
“We make sure we’re taking threes every day and getting up shots every day…” said Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico. “If people are double-teaming the post, somebody else has got to be able to step in and make a play and tonight we had a number of people being able to step in and make a play.”
Bradley battled back in the third quarter, in large part due to its own outburst of six made threes in the period, three of which coming from Lasha Petree, last season’s Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. The Braves cut Michigan’s lead down to eleven in the period, but freshman Michelle Sidor helped the Wolverines weather the storm, scoring eight points in a 12-3 Michigan run that sealed the deal the rest of the way. Sidor scored 11 points on Sunday after contributing five on Friday.
[Sidor]’s just a spark, I’ve known that forever,” said Barnes Arico. “She is fiery, she is an emotional player, and we need that kind of energy and that kind of emotion on our team.”
After a quiet performance in the season opener against WMU in which she was riddled with foul trouble, sophomore Naz Hillmon reminded her teammates why she was an All-Big Ten First Team preseason selection, finishing with a double-double 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds — what figures to be the first of many this season.
“I’ve really just been trying to work on rebounds in general,” said Hillmon. “I really just want to go out and say that every rebound was mine and really just try to hustle and get to the boards, offensive and defensive.”
Positionless Michigan, now 2-0 in the early season, will play its next two games in Akron, Ohio, as they participate in the Akron Classic with matchups against Kent State on Friday and Akron on Saturday.
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Wolverines, as one of their most-esteemed and valued fans passed away on Wednesday. Charles Raab — known around the program as “Chuck” — was a retired special needs teacher and an avid supporter of the Michigan Women’s Basketball program. The team honored his memory by taking a picture with members of his family after the victory on Sunday.
“[Chuck] has been our number one fan for as long as anyone can remember,” Barnes Arico said. “For his son to come back with his two daughters and have an opportunity to be there and have our team be able to say thank you, was really really a special moment. I think our kids are playing for Chuck, and they do have a little something extra inside of them everyday because he did mean the world to our program.”
NOTABLE AROUND THE CONFERENCE
Maryland fell to South Carolina in a top-10 matchup in College Park on Sunday. The Terps, who entered the game ranked fourth in the country, were sunk by scoring just nine points in the second quarter and eventually fell 63-54 to the Gamecocks, ranked eighth before the game. Maryland received 17 points from freshman Ashley Owusu and 11 from senior Kaila Charles.
Nebraska picked up a significant 90-85 overtime victory on the road against Missouri on Sunday behind sophomore Sam Haiby’s 28 points.
Before rebounding with a 90-58 win over Vermont on Sunday, #23 Minnesota suffered a disappointing 77-69 home loss to Missouri State on Tuesday.
On the topic of disappointing home losses, Penn State dropped a 78-70 decision to Rider in State College on Sunday.
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