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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.



© 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.

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