The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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54 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2021 BY CLAYTON SAYFIE N otre Dame is one of the top pro- grams in women's basketball, while U-M is a surging power in the Big Ten. Michigan went into South Bend Dec. 3 and pulled off a 76-66 victory over the Fighting Irish, mark- ing the first win for head coach Kim Barnes Arico in five tries at U-M against the powerhouse program. "It felt great to beat them," said fifth- year senior guard Akienreh Johnson. "Coach and I got a little emotional af- ter the game because it's my first time beating them since I've been here. It was great family bonding to get a win in that category." Barnes Arico went up against the Irish in the Big East while coaching St. John's in her previous stop, and looked up to legendary former Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw for many years, making a win over the program she built that much more special for Barnes Arico and her crew. "Notre Dame used to be in the same conference that I was in, so I know about their history, I know about their tradition," Barnes Arico said. "Muffet is a mentor to me, re- ally helped me grow up in this busi- ness. She is just such a strong woman that fights for other women. "I really have a great appreciation for this program and for Muffet, and I know how good they are. I know how talented the players are." U-M'S 5-0 START IS ONE OF THE BEST BEGINNINGS IN THE BARNES ARICO ERA Michigan is off to a hot start, having won its first five games of the 2020-21 season. This is just the third time that the program has started off 5-0 under ninth-year head coach Kim Barnes Arico, and it could end up being the best start in her tenure should U-M continue the winning streak for three more games. Barnes Arico's best beginning to a season came in 2015-16, when she and her club won their first seven contests. In 2016-17, her team won its first six games. TWO VETERANS ARE CARRYING THE SCORING LOAD EARLY ON One familiar face, forward Naz Hillmon, and a newcomer, guard/ forward Leigha Brown, are putting up gaudy scoring numbers early in the season for the Wolverines, who are averaging a whopping 87.8 points per game. That scoring clip is ranked 14th nationally as of Dec. 28. The two juniors have each scored in double figures in all five of U-M's games thus far. Hillmon has notched 20 points or more in four games, highlighted by her career-high 35-point outing in the Nov. 27 win at Oakland. The two-time team MVP is averaging 24.8 points, 9.2 rebounds (leads the team) and 2.0 assists per contest, while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor. Hillmon was chosen as the Big Ten's Co-Player of the Year in the preseason. The reigning Big Ten Sixth-Player of the Year and Nebraska transfer who was granted immediate eligibil- ity by the NCAA, Brown has been living up to the hype early in her U-M career. She had averaged 18.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, while shooting an efficient 63.0 percent from the field. Two more Maize and Blue stand- outs are averaging in double figures, with fifth-year senior guard Akien- reh Johnson posting 10.3 points and senior forward Hailey Brown pour- ing in 10.2 points per contest. TWO GAMES CANCELED DUE TO COVID-19 The Wolverines were forced to can- cel two straight games — Dec. 18 at Illinois and Dec. 23 versus Penn State — due to COVID concerns within the U-M program. According to a program release, both institutions in both cases will "work with the Big Ten Conference to identify potential re- scheduling options later this season." U-M is scheduled to play next Dec. 31 (12:30 p.m.) against Wiscon- sin in Ann Arbor to begin the 20- game conference schedule. ❏ MICHIGAN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL Wolverines' Early Slate Includes 'Special' Win Over Notre Dame 2020-21 U-M WOMEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent Result/Time (ET) Nov. 25 Central Michigan W, 93-75 Nov. 27 at Oakland W, 95-62 Dec. 3 at Notre Dame W, 76-66 Dec. 6 Wright State W, 82-59 Dec. 9 Butler W, 93-54 Dec. 19 at Illinois Postponed Dec. 23 Penn State Postponed Dec. 31 Wisconsin 12:30 p.m. Jan. 3 at Northwestern 5 p.m. Jan. 7 Nebraska 6 p.m. Jan. 10 Illinois 1 p.m. Jan. 14 at Wisconsin TBA Jan. 18 Michigan State TBA Jan. 21 at Ohio State TBA Jan. 24 Purdue TBA Jan. 28 at Michigan State TBA Feb. 1 at Rutgers TBA Feb. 4 Minnesota TBA Feb. 7 Maryland 2 p.m. Feb. 11 at Purdue TBA Feb. 18 at Indiana TBA Feb. 21 Ohio State 2 p.m. Feb. 25 at Iowa TBA Feb. 28 at Minnesota TBA March 5/6 Northwestern TBA March 9-13 Big Ten Tournament Junior forward Naz Hillmon notched 20 points or more in four of U-M's first five games. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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