ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Naz Hillmon had 24 points and 11 rebounds to help third-seeded Michigan beat No. 14 seed American 74-39 in the first round of the Wichita Regional on Saturday.
Emily Kiser added 13 points and Leigha Brown had 11 for the Wolverines, who will face No. 11 seed Villanova on Monday in the second round.
“We knew we would definitely have an advantage with our size inside and Naz being one of the best players in the country,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Obviously, she’s our go-to all the time, but we also knew that defensively, they were really going to pack it in the paint and try to limit those touches.”
American led 8-4 early before Hillmon and the Wolverines got going. Michigan scored 48 of its 74 points in the paint with Hillmon anchoring the interior offense. The Wolverines took the lead with just under two minutes left in the first quarter and never relinquished it, leading by as many as 39.
“I thought we established ourselves tremendously on the defensive mandate,” Barnes Arico said. “They scored a bunch of buckets quick when we were playing in a super-fast pace at the beginning of the game, but once we settled down, we were really able to establish ourselves on the defensive end, and I thought our defense was outstanding.”
Lauren Stack finished with 10 points for American, which won the Patriot League tournament.
Michigan: The Wolverines got 23 points from their bench, highlighted by Brown’s 11. It was Brown’s first game since recovering from a lower-leg injury in late January. Brown will be central to Michigan’s game planning for Villanova’s motion offense.
“She can go, she can go,” Barnes Arico said. “I tried to be really smart with Leigha, and just use her when we need to, but I’m expecting she’s going to need a lot of minutes on Monday, and I knew that in the second half of the game, so I was really trying to be smart about her minutes in the second half.”
American: Despite getting out to a solid start, the Eagles struggled with the physicality of Michigan’s style of play. It put them a disadvantage throughout, said Stack.
“I think we expected it, but I don’t think we expected it to be that physical, how hard they crashed the offensive boards,” Stack said. “Before the game, Michigan had said they’re the hardest working team in America, and I think they proved that on the offensive boards today. they were relentless.”
Michigan will face sixth-seeded Villanova in a second-round game in Ann Arbor on Monday.
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