Michigan women beat Villanova 64-49 and return to Sweet 16
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Naz Hillmon and her teammates sat quietly in their locker room after helping Michigan earn a spot in the Sweet 16 of the women’s NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico broke the silence, saying it was time to enjoy the accomplishment.
“We need to celebrate this moment,” Barnes Arico recalled telling her players. “And, the locker room got a little bit crazy.”
Hillmon had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five steals to help third-seeded Michigan pull away and beat No. 11 Villanova 64-49 in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night.
“Everybody doesn’t get to the Sweet 16, and we need to celebrate,” Hillmon said. “That’s not to say that we need to celebrate for the entire week, or until we play our next game.”
The Wolverines (24-6) will face 10th-seeded South Dakota on Saturday in the Wichita Region.
Michigan took control with a 10-0 run over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth, turning what was a closely contested game into a lopsided victory and taking advantage of the energy generated by 5,581 fans in the stands.
“The energy and atmosphere in there was absolutely insane,” said Leigha Brown, who scored 20 points for the Wolverines and looked fully recovered a leg injury. “When it was 48-40, we couldn’t hear ourselves.”
The Wildcats (24-9) led by three points after the opening quarter, but they simply could not stop Hillmon.
Villanova also struggled to overcome Maddy Siegrist being held to single digits for just the sixth time this season. Siegrist, who ranked second in the nation with 25.8 points per game, had 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting. The junior forward had fewer points just twice this season in November.
“They were really aggressive,” Siegrist said.
The Wildcats’ only other player in double figures was Lior Gazon, who had 11 points.
Home court was an advantage for the Wolverines, whose fans filled the lower level of Crisler Arena and spilled into many upper-deck sections.
They were very loud as Michigan scored the last six points of the third quarter, taking a 48-40 lead. Hillmon scored off an offensive rebound to open the fourth, giving her 25 points and 10 rebounds at that point, and she got on the floor moments later for her fifth steal.
“Naz was extremely impressive and she showed exactly what she’s an All-American,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said. “That’s why Naz is such a a great player. She plays both ends of the floor at the highest level and she doesn’t tire. That’s why she will be a great pro.”
Michigan: The Wolverines are set up to make their longest run in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, they lost to Baylor in their first Sweet 16 appearance in program history.
Villanova: Dillon, in her second season, led the program into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.
“I’m happy with this season overall, but tough one today,” she said.
With Siegrist back for her senior season, the Wildcats should be back for a second straight year for the first time since going to four NCAA Tournaments in a row from 2001-2004.
Michigan will play South Dakota, which knocked off second-seeded Baylor in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, on Saturday in Wichita, Kansas.
“The team we’re playing is an unbelievable team and they showed that in the way they were able to defend Baylor,” Barnes Arico said.
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