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Leigha Brown leads Michigan to thrilling win at Michigan State

On Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines earned their 19th victory of the season on the road against Michigan State.

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© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

As winners of two straight Big Ten games, the Michigan women’s basketball team (19-5, 9-4 Big Ten) went on the road and took down in-state rival Michigan State (11-12, 3-9 Big Ten) in a thrilling matchup on Sunday afternoon.

Michigan women’s basketball has rough start

Early on, things were not looking up for the Wolverines. Michigan was down 12-0 to start the matchup, yet after one quarter, the Wolverines trailed by six. Despite a poor start, the Michigan women’s basketball team began climbing back into the game behind a series of crucial baskets by senior guard Maddie Nolan and junior forward Cameron Williams.

Michigan’s first-quarter deficit was primarily due to its shooting problems — the Wolverines went 5/14 (36%) from the floor throughout the first quarter of the game. At the end of one, Michigan women’s basketball trailed the Spartans, 21-15. The once

Wolverines manage to hang in during the first half

While the Spartans managed to hang onto their slight lead, the Wolverines continued chipping away at the deficit. Michigan sharpshooter Maddie Nolan buried a game-changing 3-pointers, resulting in Michigan State’s lead being cut to four points with seven minutes remaining. Wolverine sophomore guard Jordan Hobbs sunk a pair of free throws to cut the Spartan lead to two points, and the comeback seemed all but inevitable.

Soon after, Michigan State sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann was fouled as she sunk a layup, buried her free throw, and pushed Michigan State’s lead to five. As the two teams continued to trade blows, it became clear that this matchup would be gritty all game long.

A few calls in the Wolverines’ favor allowed the Michigan women’s basketball team to slow the Spartan offense and place itself in the bonus after Michigan State sunk a 3-pointer and pushed its lead to six. Senior guard Leigha Brown sunk both free throws to cut the Spartan lead to four fresh out of the break. After getting a defensive stop, Brown scored another basket, which cut Michigan State’s lead to two points.

After trading defensive possessions, Leigha Brown scored her 10th point of the game to tie it up at 31 and force a Michigan State timeout. Fresh out of the timeout, the Spartans sunk a 3-pointer, to which the Wolverines responded with a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Ari Wiggins. On Michigan State’s next possession, the Spartans pushed their lead to four behind yet another timely 3-pointer.

Another Michigan State 3-ball pushed the Spartan lead back to seven with 30 seconds remaining in half — A Michigan turnover gave MSU the ball back yet again, though the Spartans could not capitalize. At halftime, the Michigan women’s basketball team trailed the Michigan State Spartans, 40-33.

Michigan women’s basketball regains momentum in 2nd half

Right out of the game, the Michigan women’s basketball team managed to regain its momentum and cut the Spartan lead entirely — good team basketball led to a 41-41 tie before Michigan State sunk a deep 2-point jump shot at regained the lead. On the following possession, Michigan women’s basketball star Leigha Brown gave the Wolverines the lead with an impressive 3-pointer.

Michigan State could not capitalize on back-to-back chances at the other end of the court, which allowed the Wolverines to take the ball back, though could not extend their lead. Michigan State swiftly stripped Michigan of its lead with a deep 3-pointer, which put the Spartans ahead once again. A basket from Emily Kiser tied the game yet again at 46-46 before Michigan State regained the lead off of a free throw make.

Yet again, the Wolverines were propelled by their senior leadership down the stretch. Michigan took its second lead of the game behind a pair of free throws made by Leigha Brown. Michigan freshman forward Chyra Evans laid another basket soon after, pushing Michigan’s lead to three before a Spartan 3-pointer again tied the game up.

The Spartans and Wolverines again traded defensive blows until Leigha Brown scored her 19th point of the game, giving Michigan women’s basketball a 54-50 lead. Michigan State cut that lead to two points on the following possession. Michigan and Michigan State exchanged blows to end the quarter — the Spartans got the last laugh with a buzzer-beater yet still trailed by one at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Wolverines finish strong, come out on top in East Lansing

Michigan women’s basketball opened the game with a 3-pointer from Maddie Nolan — which pushed the Wolverine lead to four (59-55) — before Leigha Brown broke the 20-point mark with a pair of free throws that gave Michigan a 61-55 lead. Michigan got another defensive stop before Leigha Brown again extended Michigan’s lead — the Wolverines led 63-55 with eight minutes to play.

Another 3-pointer by Maddie Nolan forced a Spartan timeout — despite trailing big throughout the game, the Wolverines’ lead was 11 with 7:26 remaining. Michigan State’s timeout worked as the Spartans drilled a 3-ball and a layup to cut the lead Michigan’s lead to six and force Michigan women’s basketball head coach Kim Barnes-Arico to call a timeout of her own. With 6:32 remaining, it seemed like the game was still up for grabs.

The Breslin Center erupted as the Spartans retook the court after Michigan’s timeout — perhaps louder than it had been all game. Despite turning the ball over, the Wolverines got a stop on defense and flew down the court before being fouled on the other end. Michigan’s Leigha Brown secured an incredible basket from Leigha Brown — she was also fouled and drilled the free throw, which gave Michigan a 69-60 lead.

A pair of defensive stands kept Michigan’s lead at nine — a foul under the basket on Michigan State senior guard Moria Joiner sent the Wolverines to the stripe, where they capitalized and took a 10-point lead. Seeing as the Wolverines were in the bonus, it seemed like the game had devolved into a free-throw battle. Additionally, the Spartans’ shooting success appeared to run dry as they continued to miss from all over the court.

As the two teams entered the final two minutes of gameplay, the Wolverines’ offense seemed to slow the game down and eat up the clock. Michigan’s lead had stretched to 13 points, and there was no need to add much more, especially given Michigan State’s shooting woes throughout the fourth quarter. When it was all said and done, Leigha Brown and the Michigan Wolverines left the Breslin Center with a 77-67 win — its second double-digit victory over the Spartans this season.

The win is Michigan’s third in a row after dropping back-to-back games a week ago (Maryland and Indiana).

Gameday storylines

There were many notable trends throughout today’s game. Her are a few of the notable storylines from the Wolverines’ win over Michigan State:

  • Leigha Brown nearly ties career-high (31) with 29 points.
  • Michigan trailed for the majority of the game (24:05) and only took the lead twice — both in the second half.
  • Despite shooting nearly 38 percent from the floor in the first half, the Spartans shooting percentage took a massive hit in the second half, and fell ro around 21 percent.
  • Michigan sunk 22 of their 28 free throws, while the Spartans sunk 13 of their 18. Michigan State out-fouled Michigan 10-0 in the second half.
  • Leigha Brown led Michigan in points (29), assists (8), and rebounds (12).
  • The Wolverines did not see much production from their bench today. Only eight of Michigan’s 77 points came from its bench production.
  • The game was Michigan’s second win over the Spartans this season — the Wolverines took their first matchup in Ann Arbor, 70-55.
  • Five of Michigan’s seven 3-pointers came from senior sharpshooter Maddie Nolan, who finished the game with a whopping 22 points.

Michigan women’s basketball is set to return to action next Sunday (February 12) against Nebraska in its ‘Pink Out’ game at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, MI.

Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Managing Editor at Cj@BluebyNinety.com or DM him on Twitter, @CJsWrld_.

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Michigan women’s basketball moving on to the second round

Michigan and March just go hand-in-hand.

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Mar 17, 2023; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Michigan Wolverines drives to the basket against UNLV Lady Rebels forward Alyssa Brown (44) during the second half at Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

January, February, Michigan, April. It’s officially the best time of the year as Michigan women’s basketball heads to the annual March Madness in the NCAA Tournament. Following a cold streak to end the season this year, going 2-4 in their final six games, the Wolverines enter the tournament as a 6-seed.

In their first game, Michigan got paired up against UNLV, an 11-seed on a 22-game win streak heading into the tournament. Needless to say, the Rebels were hot and had all the confidence in the world, as they had not lost a game since mid-December. Still, that hot streak wasn’t quite enough, as the Wolverines would go on to win the first-round matchup 71-59.

1st Quarter

It immediately became clear that this would be a physical game, with both teams not afraid to take a shot or two. After a few empty possessions in a row, Kiser got the scoring started with a deep 3-point shot. From here, the teams went back and forth, leading to a close initial battle.

Through bodies hitting the floor and whistles blowing, the physical first quarter led to a total of six personal fouls called through the first 10 minutes. The intensity was apparent right from the get-go.

While the game was close early on, with the score tied 7-7 just around 4 minutes into the match, Leigha Brown decided she’d had enough. Brown would go on to score four straight for the Wolverines, leading her team to make a run late in the first.

Michigan pulled away late in the quarter, entering the second leading 17-9.

2nd Quarter

Following a 12-2 run to close the 1st quarter, the scoring continued for the Wolverines as they put their foot on the gas. Michigan scored the first five points of the quarter, while senior guard Maddie Nolan scored five points by herself within the first minute and a half.

It also became apparent in this quarter that the UNLV Rebels could not compete with Michigan’s height and length. The Wolverines implemented trapping into their defense, forcing the shorter UNLV guards into difficult positions, leading to plenty of turnovers.

If the Rebels didn’t make a change fast, it was becoming clear that the game could be getting away from them soon, and that’s precisely what they did. Making use of a full-court press and some open 3-point shots, UNLV would go on a 9-1 run, closing the gap to just 25-20 with a little over two minutes remaining in the half.

Still, despite the run, the Wolverines’ defense, with six steals and two blocks, would take Michigan to the locker room ahead by eight points, leading 28-20.

3rd Quarter

To start the third, UNLV was prepped and ready to go, scoring in two straight possessions and forcing a turnover on the Wolverine’s first possession of the quarter. It was clear that the shots were starting to fall, and Michigan was beginning to lose that controlling lead they found in the first half as it came as close as being a three-point game.

However, that’s as close as it would get in the quarter as the Wolverines’ senior presence began to shine with players like Leigha Brown, Maddie Nolan and Emily Kiser all making big play after big play en route to yet another Michigan women’s basketball run, bringing the lead back up to 12 points within a matter of minutes.

To finish off the quarter, the physical nature of the game once again came to the forefront as personal fouls, and taped-up scratches became the focus. Still, through it all, Michigan took a strong 54-43 lead into the final quarter.

4th Quarter

Heading into the fourth quarter, it was important for Michigan to simply hold on to the lead and not allow UNLV to claw their way back into the game. Still, Maddie Nolan showed early on that it wouldn’t be an issue, hitting a 3-point shot straight away, her fourth 3-pointer on the day.

If the Rebels wanted to make a comeback, it was important that their defense could shine and not allow the teams to trade baskets. Unfortunately for them, there are too many weapons on the Wolverines’ offense, and coach Kim Barnes Arico and company were able to close out the game with relative ease. Michigan women’s basketball would go on to take the game 71-59.

Overview

Ultimately, despite being a close game early on, Michigan women’s basketball had a controlling lead for most of the game. The Wolverines’ defense was elite throughout the game, forcing 14 turnovers and holding star UNLV forward Desi-Rae Young to just 11 points on the day.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t too shabby either, with star seniors Emily Kiser and Maddie Nolan leading the way with 18 points each. Guard Laila Phelia led the team in rebounds with 11, while guard Leigha Brown led in assists with seven on the day. It was a genuinely dominant showing from the Wolverines, and now, Michigan women’s basketball has officially won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament five years in a row.

Looking Ahead

As is NCAA Tournament tradition, things only get more challenging the deeper you get into March Madness. Looking toward the future, Michigan prepares to faceoff against either LSU or Hawaii in the second-round, who are set to play each other today at 5:30 p.m. EST.

LSU is by far the favorite to move forward in the tournament, as the Tigers out of Baton Rouge, LA have lost just two games all year. The fact they find themselves as a 3-seed is almost criminal, as LSU has proven to be one of the best teams in the country all season long. While you have to beat the best to be the best, I’m sure Michigan fans wouldn’t mind watching the Rainbow Wahines upset the Tigers in tonight’s matchup.

Still, no matter who the Wolverines play in the next round, it’s important they bring their A-game as it is March and anything can happen. The Wolverines are set to play again this Sunday, March 19, 2023.



Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Managing Editor at Cj@BluebyNinety.com. Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and all other steaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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Michigan basketball draws Toledo in the NIT first round

Michigan basketball isn’t done yet as they get set to face Toledo in the NIT.

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Dec 29, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Tarris Reed Jr. (32) dribbles against Central Michigan Chippewas forward Markus Harding (15) in the first half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With ‘Selection Sunday’ come and gone, what every Wolverine fan already knew has become official. Michigan basketball will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015. This is undoubtedly a disappointing way for the 2022-23 season to finish for fans, but it should not surprise anyone.

Going into last weekend’s Big Ten tournament, most knew that the Wolverines needed to win, or at least make a deep run, to make the field of 68. Those hopes were dashed rather quickly, as Michigan fell swiftly and in embarrassing fashion to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the opening round, 62-50.

Now, many questions arise over the direction of the men’s basketball program, primarily regarding where exactly it goes from here. Wolverine fans didn’t have to wait long to find out, as it was announced late Sunday night that Michigan would be a No. 3 seed in the NIT tournament and face the MAC conference regular season champions, the Rockets of Toledo. The opening round game will tip-off Tuesday at 7 p.m. EST at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

A look at the Rockets

The Toledo Rockets will head into the NIT tournament undeniably disappointed and ready to win after missing out on what could have been their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1980. After tearing through the MAC regular season with an impressive 16-2 record, Toledo lost their automatic bid to Kent State in the MAC tournament championship game, 93-78.

This loss came after winning 17 straight games, going back to early January. Interestingly enough, the Rockets’ last loss before the MAC tournament also came against Kent State, in a 75-63 decision in Kent, OH. The only other MAC opponent to beat the Rockets came against Ball State in the conference opener.

Toledo went 9-4 in their non-conference slate, including impressive wins over UAB (25-9), Northern Kentucky (22-12), who just won the Horizon League tournament and punched their ticket to ‘March Madness’ for just the third time in school history, and Vermont (23-10), who will also be joining NKU in the NCAA tournament after winning the American East conference regular season and tournament.

Michigan basketball and Toledo shared one common opponent on the season, Central Michigan, who likely cost the Wolverines an at-large bid with their stunning upset in Ann Arbor earlier this year. Toledo handled their business against the Chippewas this season, winning both matchups by comfortable, twenty-plus point margins.

Offense a-plenty

Michigan basketball will be tasked with facing one of the most potent offenses in the nation, as they average a whopping 85.7 points per game this season, good for second behind only Gonzaga. With all that scoring, it’s unsurprising that Toledo shoots the ball well, as they rank 4th in the nation in total field goal percentage shooting 49.6 percent on the year. Even more impressively, the Rockets shot 40.5 percent from three-point range, which is good for second in the country.

Toledo is led in scoring by senior guard Rayj Dennis (19.8 points per game), to go along with three other double-digit scorers: Setric Millner (16.2), JT Shumate (16.1) and Dante Maddux (11.4). The offense doesn’t stop there, though, as Tyler Cochran (9.6) and Ra’Heim Moss (8.3) are also close to the mark. Millner leads the team in rebounding (5.9 per game), while Dennis tops the team in assists (5.7).

Defense not so much

For as good as the offense is, the flip side of that coin, and what ultimately kept them out of the ‘Big Dance,’ is Toledo’s defense, which ranks an abysmal 321st in the nation in scoring, giving up 76.1 points per game. Toledo also doesn’t rebound the basketball efficiently, as they currently rank 202nd in the country with just 34.5 rebounds per game. To go along with the poor effort on the glass, the Rockets turn the ball over 9.7 times per game, ranking 8th in the nation.

The Rockets will also face a considerable size deficit, as no significant contributor stands taller than 6-foot-7 (Shumate). One key to a Michigan basketball victory could come down low in the post, as Hunter Dickinson (7-foot-1) and Tarris Reed Jr. (6-foot-10) should have plenty of opportunities to dominate the Rockets’ smaller lineup. This isn’t to say Toledo has no height at all, as AJ Edu (6-foot-10) and Andre Lorrentsson (6-foot-8) could match up well with Michigan bigs, but neither average more than 12.2 minutes, or 2.7 points per game.

Altogether, the game will be a decently tough matchup for the Wolverines, which may surprise some considering it’s the first round of the NIT. Still, it’s by no means an unwinnable game for Michigan, especially being at home in the Crisler Center. At home, the Wolverines posted a 13-5 record this season and only have two losses this calendar year, both to tournament teams (Purdue and Indiana).

A little history

Michigan basketball has faced the Toledo Rockets thirteen times in school history but boasts a disappointing 7-6 record against them. To be fair, the Wolverines are a much better 3-0 since 1980, and three of the losses came pre-1970 (1968, 1950, 1948). Michigan won the only matchup since 1984, a 91-71 final during the 2020-’21 season.

The Rockets have appeared in 10 NIT tournaments but will be looking to win their first game since 2001. Michigan, meanwhile, has appeared in 11 NIT tournaments and won three (1984, 1997, 2004), although the 1997 title was vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

The game also adds a bit of a ‘revenge factor’ for Michigan football fans, as many undoubtedly remember Toledo handing the Wolverines their worst loss in modern school history. It was a woeful 13-10 final at ‘The Big House’ in Rich Rodriguez’s first season in 2008. This is still the football team’s lone loss to a MAC opponent ever.



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Tom Izzo quotes Bo Schembechler on Michigan State’s Senior Day

During the Spartans’ senior day, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo quoted the late Bo Schmbechler.

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Tom Izzo
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans’ men’s basketball team faced off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in their final home game of the season. Michigan State went on to win 84-78 over the Buckeyes and improved to 19-11 ahead of this week’s Big Ten tournament. During Michigan State’s senior day, Spartan legend and head coach Tom Izzo had the chance to speak, and turned heads by quoting the late Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.

Tom Izzo quotes Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

From 1969-1989, the Michigan Wolverines’ football team was coached by Bo Schembechler. Bo is known for shaping the identity of the Wolverines’ program, though recent allegations against him covering up sexual abuse at UM are a dark mark on his otherwise impressive coaching resume. During his time in Ann Arbor, Schembechler won 194 of his 247 games, claiming 13 Big Ten titles during his 21 years on Michigan’s sideline.

Considering Tom Izzo is a Michigan State legend himself, it was odd hearing him (reluctantly) quote Bo Schembechler.

What did Izzo have to say?

Here is Tom Izzo’s quote:

“There’s a process to this whole thing,” Izzo said. “Sometimes it takes longer than others but, I guess it was Bo Schembechler – I hate to say it – but ‘Those Who Stay Will Be Champions’.”

It takes a bold or foolish man to quote any Michigan Man in East Lansing — especially on as big of a stage as we saw during Michigan State’s Senior Day — though if anyone can (and did) get away with it, it would be Tom Izzo.



Thank you for reading Blue by Ninety. For more Michigan Athletics content from Blue by Ninety, follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Managing Editor at Cj@BluebyNinety.com. Also, be sure to check out our shop and our podcast, which is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and all other steaming platforms. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest and most influential Michigan media outlets there is!

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