The 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines women’s basketball team is advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the second season in a row, beating the 11-seeded Villanova Wildcats, 64-49. With the win, they are a perfect 16-0 when playing at the Crisler Center on the season.
It was a fairly back-and-forth game for the opening three quarters, but the Wolverines were able to use a 10-0 run — from the end of the third quarter to the first few minutes of the fourth quarter — and stellar play in the paint to survive and advance to the next round.
Here are a few takeaways from the win.
Naz Hillmon is incredible
It’s not hyperbole to say Naz Hillmon is one of the best players to ever be a part of Michigan basketball, man or woman. In her last game at Crisler, she put on an absolute clinic in the paint, racking up a game-high 27 points to go along with 11 rebounds while helping the Wolverines dominate around the rim.
Naz is something special for @umichwbball. She finishes her final game on her home court with 27 points, 11 rebounds. That’s her 26th double double this season. The 50th of her career, a program record. pic.twitter.com/o3JhfIQd5M— Jeanna Trotman (@JeannaTrotmanTV) March 21, 2022
As we’ve covered on the site before, Hillmon makes scoring easy for herself with the positioning and footwork she’s able to use on the inside. She almost always posts in the lane keeping defenders guessing with great footwork before finishing with smooth touch around the basket.
Whenever Michigan needs a bucket, Hillmon is able to deliver. She’s the safety net for an offense full of quality players, and having her in the middle makes them elite.
I’m excited to see how Hillmon continues to grow as she enters the pros as a likely top pick in the WNBA Draft. I’m sure Michigan fans will love seeing her come back to school when her jersey is eventually retired.
Asked Barnes Arico about retiring Naz Hillmon jersey: "She belongs in the rafters of Crisler We always talk about the House that Cazzie Built, but we sometimes talk about the house that Nazzie Built on the women's side"— angelique (@chengelis) March 22, 2022
Michigan absolutely dominated in the paint and on the boards
Hillmon wasn’t the only one able to punish Villanova on the glass, as the Wolverines absolutely obliterated the Wildcats when it came to corralling missed shots (49-25)
The senior forward led the way for the Wolverines with 11 boards, but major props to Emily Kiser, who has complimented Hillmon well on offense and grabbed 10 rebounds of her own.
Leigha Brown made a big impact off the bench in this one as well, scoring a season-high 20 points. The majority of her points came by simply punishing Wildcats at the rim and aggressively reminding them of their inability to guard her.
That flick of the wrist to signal the and-one at the end of this tough bucket was perfection (insert chef’s kiss emoji here).
Leigha Brown highkey might talk more junk than Hunter— ᗩᑎT ᗯᖇIGᕼT (@itsAntWright) March 21, 2022
A few flaws for the Wolverines were exploited by the Wildcats, as they only made two of their 13 three-point attempts, and they turned the ball over more than Villanova (14-12). If Michigan can shoot the three and take care of the ball a little bit better while dominating inside, the tournament run is far from over.
What’s next for the Wolverines
After beating Baylor earlier this season, the Wolverines won’t have the chance for more revenge on the team that knocked them out of the tournament last year, as the Bears were upset by the 10-seeded South Dakota Coyotes on Sunday.
Michigan’s next game will be this Saturday against the Coyotes in Wichita, Kansas. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. If the Wolverines win, they would earn their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.