A program-altering season came to an end for the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday after a 78-75 overtime loss to Baylor in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Saturday’s game was the first appearance in the second weekend of the tournament for Michigan in program history. The odds were heavily stacked against them in a showdown with the No. 2 seed and national powerhouse in Baylor, but the Wolverines held tough throughout the day.
Leigha Brown, who scored 73 points in three NCAA Tournament games, had 23 points on Saturday. Naz Hillmon, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, had 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Wolverines trailed twice by double digits in the fourth quarter, but rallied to force overtime and had Baylor on the ropes. The Wolverines led three times in the overtime period, but the defending national champs were able to pull ahead and seal the victory.
Still, Michigan put on a show in its tournament run. Head coach Kim Barnes Arico believes that her program deserves respect.
“If the rest of the country didn’t see that we’re one of the best basketball teams out there, I don’t know what you have to do to get that kind of respect,” Barnes Arico said.
This program hopes to build on this season moving forward as Barnes Arico continues to build a competitive and consistent winner. She will have a major piece back next season in Hillmon, who believes this is a turning point for Michigan women’s basketball.
“It tells people we are a tough team and we come to compete, and we’ve believed that all year long,” Hillmon said. “There’s been a lot of outside voices, and we talked about how they can sometimes get inside, but we never allowed that to do that to us.
“For other people, whether they believe it now or now, we’re a tough program, and we’re gonna play our hearts out every single night, and we’re working toward championships. That’s why I came to Michigan. I wanted to go somewhere where I could help build a program and help win some championships. This has been a special team having a lot of firsts but now it’s time to make seconds. We’re a program that’s coming to compete and is not going to be an easy program to step over.”
No. 2 Baylor will take on No. 1 seed Connecticut with a trip to the Final Four on the line next.