3 takeaways from Michigan women’s basketball advancing to Elite 8

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Michigan women’s basketball team advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time after a win over South Dakota and here are three takeaways. 

Survive and advance is always the mantra in the NCAA Tournament and it was fitting for the Michigan women’s basketball team on Saturday.

The Wolverines didn’t play their best game against a feisty South Dakota squad Saturday, but they played just well enough to win 52-49, which meant advancing to a first-ever Elite 8.

Naz Hillmon had her hands full with South Dakota’s defense but she was productive scoring the ball and finding her teammates. And when the game was on the line, freshman Laila Phelia scored off the glass to give Michigan a lead with about 20 seconds it wouldn’t relinquish.

There were some nervous moments including late 3-pointers that would have allowed South Dakota to take the lead or tie but just missed.

Here are three takeaways from a historic win for Michigan women’s basketball.

Laila saves the day

The freshman made a big bucket late but she also scored some key hoops early when the Wolverines struggled to get the ball into Hillmon. In all, Laila scored 11 points in the first half and finished with 14.

Without her ability to get to the bucket and her two first-half 3-pointers, Michigan might have fallen down too far early and against the Coyotes defense, it would have been hard to come back.

Hillmon was the best player on the floor. But Phelia has the look of a future star too.

Naz won’t be denied

Hillmon didn’t get as many looks as the Michigan women’s basketball team probably wanted her to get (12) but she connected on six and finished with 17 points, as well as 10 rebounds. That was her 51st-career double-double and it was much-needed.

South Dakota was scrappy and Hannah Sjerven did a spectacular job defending Hillmon inside. Yet, Naz was able to impact the game with three assists, along with her own defense around the rim.

As we have seen throughout her career, when it matters, Naz delivers, just as she did with a timely assist and rebound late. She’s the best Wolverine in women’s basketball history and thankfully, she gets at least one more game — hopefully more.

The best Michigan women’s basketball team ever

Regardless of what happens on Monday against Louisville, this team is the best women’s basketball team U-M has ever had.

Not only have the Wolverines won 25 games but they have won three in the NCAA Tournament and five over the past two years.

Naz Hillmon deserves to have her jersey hung in the rafters but this entire team should be remembered for doing something the program never had before.

However, there will be time to celebrate all that when this run is over. Michigan is not done yet.