Uncasville, CT— The No. 13 Michigan Wolverines out-muscled and out-physicaled the No. 5 Baylor Bears 74-68 in overtime for the program’s first ever victory over a top 5 team (0-33).
Baylor head coach Nikki Collen flatly said, “we got out toughed.”
Leigha Brown spearheaded an unconscious effort all game, but specifically in the extra session where she scored six of her game high 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting. She added five rebounds and four assists.
The Wolverines out-rebounded Baylor 50-35, including 18-9 on the offensive glass. Naz Hillmon had a double double with 10 rebounds (six offensive) and 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Michigan scored 25 second chance points in regulation compared to none for the Bears.
While it was an old-school, inside-the-paint battle that Michigan won, Baylor did everything they could to slow down the Wolverine bulldozer.
NaLyssa Smith, who many expect to be the first or second pick in the WNBA draft, had her nation leading tenth double double this afternoon. Smith had 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 14 rebounds. She scored the last six points of Baylor’s 19-point first quarter, though the Bears only scored 24 total points in the second and third quarter to find themselves in a hole in what was a game of runs.
It as Caitlin Bickle off the bench, however, who served as the main nuisance to Hillmon. With Baylor down 11-4 early in the first quarter, Bickle came in to immediately hit a three and get a fast break layup. If Michigan won the second chance points battle, then Baylor stayed in the contest with a 17-4 edge in fast break points.
Bickle wore down Hillmon in a bruising post battle where each found back and forth success and ultimately had each foul out of the game. Hillmon played the entirety of the fourth quarter with four fouls but fouled out with 22.2 seconds remaining.
Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said, “When Naz fouled out we could’ve folded, but we did a great job of battling back.”
The Bears were unable to capitalize on Hillmon’s absence in overtime as Cameron Williams had key boards and points off the bench and Maddie Nolan hit a huge corner three off an inbounds play with five seconds on the shot clock.
Down 70-68 with 45 seconds left, Baylor guards Sarah Andrews and Jordan Lewis were able to force a loose ball, dove on it together and got a timeout granted with 24 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, Smith drove the lane and missed a contested layup that sealed Baylor’s fate.
Andrews and Lewis were the heros of the fourth quarter with Andrews, who finished with 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, making two of Baylor’s four three-pointers in the fourth period. Lewis only shot 2-of-13 from the field, but 11 of her 15 points came from the foul line—including three critical free throws that cut Michigan’s lead to two entering the fourth quarter. Lewis also had five boards and seven assists.
When the Bears went down four in overtime, Smith responded with a corner three of her own to cut the lead to one. But the extra possessions finally broke Baylor in overtime—the opposite of last year’s Sweet 16 it also took five extra minutes to determine a winner between these two teams—as Michigan got an offensive rebound and two free throws. Then Brown drove the entire half court with Lewis glued to her hip to make a contested layup that put Michigan up 70-65.
Despite Smith’s athleticism, which was showcased on her alley-oop from Lewis with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter, she could not create the same magic down two with seconds left in overtime.
Collen said “it’s no mystery, I’m not going to use [Smith] as a decoy. Great if it works, but if it doesn’t I’m an idiot.”
Baylor last played on December 8th and will next play Houston Baptist at home next Wednesday, December 29th. Michigan, already 2-0 in Big Ten play, will host Eastern Michigan this Wednesday.