Michigan lost the Big Ten Title on Sunday because its strength, the heartbeat of the team, failed and because Iowa’s weakness stepped up: defense.
The stats are there. After hanging 98 on the Hawkeyes in the first meeting, it only managed 80 points Sunday — not a measly number, but not enough to hang with the best offense in the country. It shot 7-for-18 from three in the game, which is good for their season on a whole, but U-M was let down by its touch on the inside. Senior forward Naz Hillmon shot 50% and senior forward Emily Kiser shot 55.5%, both below the mark that Michigan needs when facing big men in foul trouble. On the day, Michigan shot under 50% on layups.
And then there’s the Wolverine defense. Their 15 turnovers on offense weren’t an anomaly, but unlike against Maryland or Iowa in the past, those turnovers led to quick transition opportunities — Sunday’s matchup had 31 fastbreak points. Michigan’s post defense couldn’t compete with Monika Czinano, and at a crucial time allowed her to feast and twist the dagger that Caitlin Clark put in the Wolverines. And then the pair had defenders scrambling, leaving open shots for Gabbie Marshall or Kate Martin to extend the lead even further.