Winning the Damn Thing Anyway
Objectively bad officiating put Michigan in the unenviable position of not having Naz Hillmon available for overtime against #5 Baylor. Thanks to Leigha Brown, vengeance was theirs anyway.
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Nobody can say Michigan didn’t earn their program-first win over a top-five team.
The Wolverines needed overtime to beat #5 Baylor, 74-68, on Sunday afternoon. Many fans faced their own adversity before tipoff, as the ESPN telecast meant the since-resolved Disney-Google standoff prevented the game from showing up on YouTube TV accounts1. A couple hours later, Naz Hillmon fouled out with the game knotted at 59 and 22 seconds remaining in regulation.
This is the call that put Hillmon on the bench for good:
Michigan-Baylor showcased a lot of the best women’s college basketball has to offer: two potential top-five picks in Hillmon and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, a longtime power against an emerging program in a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen overtime classic, and a clash of styles between BU pushing the tempo and U-M deliberately working ball screens.
The game also showcased the worst of women’s college basketball: the officiating. Take all the problems with men’s CBB referees — they’re part-timers working a grueling schedule for relatively low pay in a thankless job — and magnify them, or just imagine every WBB game is refereed by DJ Carstensen and Bo Boroski.
I know: Michigan won, so why the sour grapes? When the officials nearly decide a nationally televised top-15 matchup because their incompetence falls too far in one team’s direction, it’s frustrating for a multitude of reasons, chief of which is that there’s no expectation of any change.
You have to hope the bad calls even out, don’t saddle anyone with undeserved foul trouble, and ultimately don’t play a large hand in the outcome. That didn’t happen on Sunday; if Baylor had won, it’d be the main story.
Thankfully, Leigha Brown saved the day.
I’m not advocating for officials to swallow their whistles in crunch time or give favorable treatment to star players. I’m asking for the quality of officiating to not be such a critical factor that not addressing it would be a dishonest recounting of the game.
This was Hillmon’s second foul, which was called a moving screen:
She’s planted. Yes, there’s a slight turn of her left knee, but that’s a pretty natural movement when the Baylor defender is attempting to run through her hip. Kim Barnes Arico felt compelled to insert sophomore forward Cameron Williams, who had functionally fallen out of the rotation the last few games. Williams, impressively, created three baskets — two her own — with offensive rebounds to close the half while Hillmon languished on the bench.
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