This weekend, Michigan played to its strength: Naz Hillmon.
Scoring 51 points across the two games, there were stretches the senior forward took over each game and made it her own.
“Naz, she’s extremely impressive,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said after its loss. “You know, I took time yesterday to speak to that. And she showed exactly why she is, you know, the All-American out on the floor.”
In the first two rounds, her field goal percentage was 76.6%, though her free-throw shooting dropped, going just 5-for-12. Both American and Villanova were also unprepared for her offensive rebounding ability, and she had 12 total across the two days.
Multiple times a shot from Leigha Brown or Maddie Nolan off a high screen from Hillmon would be off. But with Hillmon so far from the basket, the defenders would relax and not focus on blocking her out as hard — and then she swooped in for the rebound and an easy two points.
In NCAA Tournament games, with everything on the line, the games slow down. Defenses tighten up and players don’t shoot as well with the pressure on. The games grind on—both of Michigan’s games this weekend are examples of that—and the battle on the glass becomes more important. That’s what led to the Wolverines’ run last year and, so far, what led to their trip to the Sweet Sixteen this year.
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