3 takeaways as Michigan women's basketball advances to Big Ten semifinals

The Michigan women's basketball team advanced to the Big Ten semifinals on Friday night and clinched an NCAA tournament berth.
Indiana's Sara Scalia (14) shoots over Michigan's Laila Phelia (5) during the second half of the
Indiana's Sara Scalia (14) shoots over Michigan's Laila Phelia (5) during the second half of the / Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY

The Michigan women's basketball team probably didn't need to beat Indiana to make the NCAA tournament, but the 69-56 win over the Hoosiers has to feel good all the same.

Laila Phelia was awarded First-Team All-Big Ten honors earlier this week and she looked the part on Friday night with 30 points. Lauren Hansen caught fire in the second half, scoring 16 points total, an effort that included four 3-pointers.

Here are three takeaways from a huge win for Michigan women's basketball.

Laila Phelia is elite

Caitlin Clark is the star that everyone wants to talk about and rightfully so, but Phelia will start generating her own WNBA buzz next season. Truthfully, she already has. She scored 23 points on Thursday and followed that up with 30 points, nearly half of Michigan's output in the win.

Phelia has taken her game to another level so far in this tournament and it's been fun to watch. She's averaged 26.5 points through two games and if Michigan women's basketball is going to have a shot at the upset on Saturday (4 PM EST) against Iowa, they'll probably need close to another 30 points.

Wolverines are going dancing

Indiana was missing one of its best players, but still, beating a top-20 NET team on a neutral floor is a quadrant-1 win. Michigan women's basketall was among the last eight teams in the field in the last women's bracketology projection, but they don't need to worry now. The back-to-back wins in the Big Ten tournament give the Wolverines three in a row.

At this point, they are improving their seeding and if they can get past Iowa, it feels like they would get into the single digits in terms of their seed line. Either way, they are headed to the NCAA tournament for the sixth straight time excluding the COVID year.

Defense is the only hope

Michigan women's basketball led the Big Ten in scoring defense this season they have defended really well down the stretch, holding four of their last five opponents to 60 points or less. Iowa scored over 100 in their last meeting but this game is on a neutral floor.

Containing Clark is nearly impossible. What the Wolverines need to do is what Nebraska did and somewhat limited the others, although they did hold Clark scoreless for the fourth quarter. It's hard to see that happening again, but after an up-and-down season, the Michigan women's basketball team is one win away from playing for the Big Ten championship.

That's a hell of a job by Kim Barnes-Arico.