UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Michigan has had many good wins in program history but never has been able to beat a top-five opponent until Sunday.
That Michigan could end that 0-33 mark against Baylor made it extra special because the Bears ended the Wolverines’ season last year in the Sweet 16.
Leigha Brown scored 25 points to lead No. 13 Michigan to a 74-68 win over fifth-ranked Baylor in the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet we beat a top-five team,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “It’s a great signature win.”
The game was a rematch of last season’s NCAA Tournament overtime thriller that Baylor won 78-75. NaLyssa Smith made all 11 of her shots from the field in that game. While the stakes weren’t the same, this game was just as competitive.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth how it ended,” Brown said. “That’s in the back of our minds this whole season. It feels great.
Leading 66-65 in OT, Emily Kiser made two free throws and Brown added a jumper that gave the Wolverines (11-1) a five-point lead with 1:23 left.
Baylor (9-2) got within 70-68 and after a turnover had a chance to tie it, but Smith missed a drive down the lane with 15 seconds left. Maddie Nolan converted two free throws with 11.7 seconds left to seal the win.
Smith had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Baylor.
With the game tied at 59, Baylor had a chance to win it at the end of regulation. After Michigan star Naz Hillmon fouled out with 22.2 seconds left, the Bears missed a drive by Jordan Lewis. After the ball went out of bounds off a Michigan player, Smith missed a turnaround jumper on the baseline.
“No mystery. Not going to use her as a decoy,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “Because the problem of using her as a decoy, it’s great if the play works. If it doesn’t, I’m an idiot. Put the ball in your best player’s hands and let her make a play.”
Michigan grabbed the rebound and couldn’t get a shot off in the final four-tenths of a second, sending the game to overtime.
The Wolverines were up comfortably by nine late in the third quarter before Hillmon picked up her fourth foul and the Bears were able to rally.
Michigan trailed by three after one quarter and led by four at the half.
Hillmon finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Smith and Hillmon are two of the top potential picks in the WNBA draft next spring. The league was holding its annual draft lottery Sunday. Many WNBA scouts were in attendance at the game.
“That would be great,” Smith said of going to Washington, which got the No. 1 pick in the draft. “I have family in D.C., too. That’s where my dad’s from. That’s looking pretty right now.”
Collen spent two seasons as an assistant for the WNBA Connecticut Sun before getting the head coaching job with the Atlanta Dream. She spent three seasons there before taking over at Baylor this year.
Baylor: The Bears had chances to beat the Wolverines but couldn’t come up with the big plays down the stretch.
Michigan: The Wolverines got a signature win ahead of their rivalry game against Ohio State.
Baylor: Hosts Houston Baptist on Dec. 29 before starting Big 12 play.
Michigan: Hosts Ohio State on Dec. 31 in a Big Ten game. The Wolverines had their game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday canceled because of COVID-19 concerns within the EMU program.