In Michigan women’s basketball’s maiden voyage into the Sweet 16, these maize and blue athletes masked as Cinderella at the ball were determined to keep dancing.
All the way down to 0.9 seconds, against the defending women's national champion.
It took overtime to settle things but despite the Wolverines (16-6) best efforts as they scratched, clawed, and fought their way back into the ballgame, it was not enough as the Baylor Lady Bears (28-2) squeaked by with a 78-75 win in the 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament. Baylor has now won 20 consecutive games.
Several times throughout the game, Baylor had appeared to distance themselves from the Wolverines, even carrying a 12-point lead. Yet, Michigan kept fighting back behind big baskets from Leigha Brown and Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon — who hit the game-tying bucket with 17 seconds left to force overtime.
As Michigan nipped at their heels, there was always a play or some movement that teams of Baylor's caliber make, and it's what separates them and a handful of other schools when playing for the largest prize in women's college basketball.
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Baylor guard DiJonai Carrington (21) battles for the ball with Michigan forward Emily Kiser (33) during their Sweet 16 game. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Once in regulation and once in overtime, Baylor's DiJonai Carrington produced clutch steals on possessions that could have either given Michigan a tie, or seen them take the lead. Carrington's efforts are just the beginning of the story for a Bears team that is headed to the Elite Monday night vs. the UConn Huskies, who took down another Big Ten team in Iowa earlier Saturday.
Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith was a perfect 11 of 11 from the field for 24 points — the most made baskets for a player perfect from the field in the tournament since 2018. Moon Ursin added 20 points and Carrington 19 off the bench.
Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith is 9-for-9 from the field. Baylor leads 55-51 with 4:20 to play.
The most makes without a miss in an NCAA tournament game since 2000 is 11 by Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan (2018).
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As Hillmon's night began by making four of her first five baskets, each bucket on every possession was met with extra effort from the Baylor defense, which set a defender in every player's face and forced Michigan to make extra passes. The non-Hillmon portion of the Wolverins' starting lineup struggled to help their teammate out, shooting just 26 percent in the first half.
In the second half, just as in the second round game vs. Tennessee, Brown came alive for the Wolverines' offense. Brown shot 6 of 9 in the second half to net a team-high 23 points in the loss. Hillmon finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
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