The Best Teammate
Rutgers tried not to let Naz Hillmon eat, so she fed everyone else, then feasted anyway. Also: Amy Dilk's return opens up the court.
SITE STUFF: The lack of content last week was due to some combination of burnout and having a bug of some sort — I had a take-home COVID test turn up negative but it’s hard to get a convenient appointment for a PCR test, and it feels like I’m slowly coming out the other side of it regardless. The podcast will be back this week and I’m writing when I’m able. Thanks for bearing with me.
“Not only is she a great player, she’s the best teammate.”
That’s the money quote on Naz Hillmon, who was just the subject of a Big Ten Network documentary, from Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico.
The Wolverines needed to bounce back against Rutgers on Sunday after dropping their first Big Ten game of the season to a flamethrowing Nebraska squad and falling behind #6 Indiana at the top of the conference standings.
The Scarlet Knights went with an extreme strategy from the jump, packing the paint on defense and all but abandoning the perimeter. The goal was clear: make anyone but Hillmon beat them.
After the first quarter, Hillmon had missed her only shot from the field and, even more uncharacteristically, not pulled down a single rebound.
Michigan led 17-6.
Sure, Rutgers is struggling with an overhauled roster, an interim coach while program icon C. Vivian Stringer is on a year-long leave of absence, and COVID issues. Michigan should’ve won this game, and won it handily.
Hillmon’s monk-like patience in the post was still a sight to behold. She was battling hard for position against a fronting defender and a helper anchored under the hoop, and when she got the ball, the collapsing defense left little option but to kick it back out. That can frustrate even the most generous of superstars.
Hillmon refused to take the bait, foregoing forced shots in favor of passing to open shooters every time, even though her teammates missed their first four shots from the field. Three of her assists set up three-pointers and the other created an and-one. This catch, stop, and pass to Maddie Nolan is one of the best plays by a Wolverine this season: