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Michigan women’s basketball: Midseason Check-In

The Wolverines are dominating to start the season.

Michigan v Baylor Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The No. 8 Michigan Wolverines improved to 13-2 on the season after taking care of business at home against Rutgers on Sunday, beating the Scarlet Knights by a score of 76-47. They remains undefeated at home and with Sunday’s win, they’ve extended their winning streak at home to eight games. The Wolverines return to action on Thursday as they hit the road to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The Wolverines remain in the race for the top of the Big Ten and as a contender for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan is currently third in the Big Ten, with huge conference games against No. 10 Maryland and No. 6 Indiana later this month. The Terrapins follow the Wolverines close behind in the conference standings and Michigan has the chance to get the edge next Sunday at College Park. The Hoosiers will come to Ann Arbor at the end of the month, giving Michigan its only crack at the current conference leader. With the Big Ten race still very much open for taking, the Wolverines have a chance to win it if they can get crucial wins in the month of January.

Michigan soared into the top-10 earlier this season after pulling off their first win over a top-five ranked opponent in program history. In what was a rematch of last season’s Sweet Sixteen matchup, Michigan played then No. 5 Baylor Bears in the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase. Michigan defeated the Bears in overtime 74-68, which both avenged and strangely mirrored its 78-75 Sweet Sixteen overtime loss to them last season.

While this was the best win so far this season for the Maize and Blue, they haven’t shied away from other ranked opponents. They are currently 4-1 against ranked teams, with their lone loss coming against Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC challenge in early December. Michigan bounced back resoundly from that 70-48 loss to the Cardinals, as they rattled off five more wins in December, including the Baylor victory and a win over then No. 25 Ohio State.

The Wolverines began the new year by dropping their second game of the season to an unranked Nebraska team. The Cornhuskers came away with the 79-58 win, leaving Michigan with a 4-1 record in conference play. Michigan then promptly responded with a blowout win of its own, defeating the Scarlet Knights at home 76-47. The Wolverines look to extend their overall season success over the upcoming week with games against Penn State and No. 10 Maryland. Both games are on the road, which has shown to be a bit troublesome for the Wolverines as they currently sit 2-2 in road games.

Michigan is led by senior forward Naz Hillmon, who currently averages 20.1 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the Maize and Blue, shooting 54.8% from the floor. Close behind is senior guard Leigha Brown, averaging 15 PPG, 3.4 REB and 3.4 AST on the season, shooting 47.5%. They are aided by senior forward Emily Kiser, who’s at a career-high 10.7 PPG, 8.2 REB and 1.6 AST.

Michigan rounds out its starters with junior guard Maddie Nolan and senior guard Danielle Rauch. Rauch averages a career-high 6.3 PPG, 3.6 REB and 2.3 AST, while shooting 34.8%!from the floor and 35.6% from three. Nolan, also meeting her career highs this season, averages 7.7 PPG, 3.9 REB, and 2.1 AST, while shooting 43.4% from the floor and 41.7% from beyond the arc.

The Wolverines will head to University Park to take on the Nittany Lions on Thursday night. Penn State is currently 7-6 this season with a 1-2 record in conference play. After having two games canceled and one postponed before the start of the new year given the recent surges in COVID-19, this will be Penn State’s second game back. They are coming off a 106-78 loss to the No. 10 Maryland Terrapins, extending their drought against ranked opponents this season to 0-3. Penn State will be gunning for that first ranked win to get their conference hopes back on track.

There is still basketball to be had this week as the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines will play the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center at 7 p.m.