Basketball

Michigan basketball utilizes charges to beat Michigan State


Sitting at the podium to answer one last question after the No. 17 Michigan women’s basketball team dominated rival Michigan State, Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico lit up, threw her hands in the air and laughed. 

The question she was asked? The Wolverines’ charge-taking against the Spartans.

“I challenge our team because I tell them they’re the ‘all-soft team,’ ” Barnes Arico joked. “I’ve never had a team that hasn’t gotten charges (like) this season, with the exception of (graduate forward) Emily Kiser.”

Barnes Arico explained that she has “a ‘Block M’ on everybody’s locker,” and each time a player makes a hustle play, they get a sticker on that ‘M’ to reward the charge taken or dive after a loose ball. At halftime, with Michigan up eight and the Spartans winning the battle over loose balls, Barnes Arico challenged her players to try to earn some stickers over the final 20 minutes. 

The Wolverines followed suit.

“Our ability to (take charges) in the third and fourth quarter was ridiculous,” Barnes Arico said. “This was probably our season high. And I was really proud because I think, especially when we (play) four guards, we lost a little bit of our rebounding edge.” 

While that energy wasn’t prominently displayed until the second half, the foundation for that second-half aggression was laid early.

Five minutes into the game, fifth-year wing Leigha Brown hit an off-balance midrange jumper to beat the shot clock. Before Michigan could even set up on defense, Brown drew a charge near the logo as Michigan State brought the ball down the court, sending her teammates and a packed Crisler Center into a roar as the momentum began to swing toward the Wolverines after the Spartans’ fast start.

But still engaged in a tight battle at halftime, Michigan knew it needed to amplify its tenacity. So the Wolverines did just that.

“Something we talked about a lot this week is just the toughness, the ability to take those charges that we took in the second half, to get on the floor for loose balls,” senior guard Maddie Nolan said. “Those are gonna be the difference maker and we felt in the first half we weren’t as tough as we would have liked, and I think we kind of saw that shift in the second half.”

Nolan set the tone for Michigan midway through the third quarter. Playing with three fouls, she stepped in front of Michigan State guard Moira Joiner, who had three fouls of her own. After Nolan hit the ground and Joiner was called for the charge — her fourth foul en route to fouling out later in the contest — Nolan stayed down and let out an excited yell as her team hustled over to help her up and hype her up.

And the party wasn’t over for the Wolverines. Later on in the third, sophomore guard Jordan Hobbs took a charge following four straight points from Kiser. Hoping to stave off the momentum from Michigan’s celebration, the Spartans called a timeout.

Out of the timeout, Hobbs launched a 3-pointer from the corner. And despite the timeout, the Wolverines’ entire bench stood up, feeding off the energy from the charge. Hobbs, who had missed her first three attempts from deep, went 2-for-4 from beyond the arc after taking that first charge and drew a second charge in the fourth quarter.

“When you take a charge on a player, I know from experience, that can really get in your head,” Kiser said. “If someone beats you to that spot, you’re less aggressive, which really helps.”

With Michigan’s renewed focus on charge-taking and hustle plays, the Wolverines used their energy to put the game away for good. Committing only 10 fouls in the second half compared to Michigan State’s 15, Michigan utilized the hustle plays Barnes Arico so desperately wanted to see from her team.

And in doing so, not only did the Wolverines earn some stickers for their lockers, but they stepped up on the big stage and silenced their rivals.

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