Film Breakdown: Michigan’s January win over Northwestern

By Ally Navarrete

Back on Jan. 3, Northwestern women’s basketball had a rough start to 2021. The No. 12 Michigan Wolverines (then-No. 16) took down the Cats in a dominant fashion, 84-63. 

The teams will face off again this Saturday, March 6. After a hard-fought loss to No. 8 Maryland last Sunday, the ‘Cats will look to avenge their January loss to the Wolverines and win their final regular-season game.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the last Northwestern-Michigan match-up to give you a sense of what could go down on Saturday:

Michigan from the arc

Leigha Brown drills a three in the first quarter. (Credit: ESPN)

On this early Michigan offensive possession, Wolverine star Naz Hillmon had a great look to find Leigha Brown wide open for the three. While Hillmon is undoubtedly Michigan’s greatest scoring threat, in this sequence, the ‘Cats defense was almost too focused on her, leaving Brown with the perfect opportunity to score. If the ‘Cats are going to be more competitive with the Wolverines this weekend, they’ll need to maintain the spread of the blizzard defense to monitor both Hillmon down low and her teammates on the outside.

In this game, Michigan went 8-of-13 from three, while Northwestern shot just 3-of-19. In addition to better defense, some more threes from Pulliam, Hamilton or Burton would make the ‘Cats that much more competitive.

Jordan Hamilton with the breakaway

Jordan Hamilton turns a steal into two points on the other end. (Credit: ESPN)

After Courtney Shaw got a hand on a Michigan pass, Jordan Hamilton was ready for the steal. She flew down the court and right through two Wolverine defenders to put up a lucky inside hand lay-up. Even though Michigan dominated this game, Hamilton’s steal was one of the Wolverines’ 20 turnovers during this game, compared to Northwestern’s six. The ‘Cats generated 20 points off turnovers during this game. Aggressive defense to create turnovers paired with quick, smart offensive moves like Hamilton’s here will be critical for the ‘Cats this weekend.

Emily Kiser’s perfect pass

The Wolverines work their way in side for two points from Naz Hillmon. (Credit: ESPN)

Michigan’s Leigha Brown lobbed the ball over the Northwestern defense to find Emily Kiser below the basket midway through the second quarter. To avoid the Northwestern double team, Kiser immediately passed the ball to Naz Hillmon, who was open for an easy shot right at the basket. While Paige Mott had the right intent to move in on Kiser for the double team, Kiser’s quick reflexes allowed her to find her team’s top scorer right away. Kiser deserves all the credit for this play — there’s not much Northwestern can do to fight against excellent court vision except be ready to play strong defense on the next possession.

Burton and Wood connect

Veronica Burton intercepts the inbound pass and sends the rock to Sydney Wood for an easy two. (Credit: ESPN)

Veronica Burton intercepted the Michigan inbound, and Sydney Wood was ready in the paint to put up the easy floater. Burton had four steals in this game, and Wood had a career-high 19 points. While she did have four steals, Burton only scored seven points against the Wolverines. Expect Burton to bring the defensive fire to the game Saturday while also having a better offensive showing, and Wood to contribute on offense as she did in January. In that case, the ‘Cats should put up a more competitive opposition.

Naz Hillmon down low

Naz Hillmon muscles her way inside for the layup. (Credit: ESPN)

It’s the name everybody knows: Naz Hillmon. In this play, Hillmon received a pass and was the only Michigan player in the paint, with three different Northwestern players each taking a stab at her. But she fought her way through all of them to get the shot up. Hillmon finished this game with 26 points, and she averages 25.4 per game. Notably, she’s had four performances this season with over 30 points, with an earth-shattering 50 against Ohio State on Jan. 21. Especially with the absence of Courtney Shaw down low, who was still healthy for this first game, the ‘Cats defense will have to find a way to contain Hillmon in the paint on Saturday.

However, and arguably more importantly, based on recent showings, Northwestern is going to have to step it up on offense to keep competitive with Michigan this weekend. Tune in to see how it all shakes out.