Obviously, the Michigan women’s basketball team at number 6 needs Leiga Brown.
Moving from Nebraska after her sophomore year, Brown made an immediate impact on Wolverine last season. The senior wing has continued to contribute and has played an important role in bringing Michigan’s program to new heights over the past two seasons.
But in both of her long absences this season her presence was seriously lacking.
The first occurred very early in the season, after an injury in the second game against St. Francis Brooklyn prevented it for the next five games. And while its absence was largely insignificant in minor non-conference games, it forced several junior classes to take a slack, putting Wolverine in a potentially risky position.
Michigan was able to manage the style of play by winning on the committee. In all five games, at least three players scored double digits. After her return to Daytona Beach Invitational against Oregon, it was clear that her presence added important depth to the list.
“We’re a different team with Leiga,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arica said after returning to Daytona Beach Invitational. “She is one of the best security guards in the country. It was nice to have her this weekend. It makes a difference. ”
Her second injury, however, had much more serious consequences.
With a shin injury after a game in Indiana on Jan. 31, Brown remained on the bench for four games. Two of the four matches against the then number. 21 Iowa, and then – No. 13 Maryland, had near victories. The other two were upset by unranked teams – Michigan and Northwest.
Without Brown there is much more uncertainty as to whether a crime will occur.
Against Iowa Michigan has found its style of winning commissions again, albeit against a much tougher opponent. First-year security guard Laila Felia scored 24 career points along with 26 for Hillman. Junior guard Maddie Nolan and senior forward had 17 and 10 points respectively.
Despite an uncertain start to the match in Maryland, the second half prompted Wolverine guards to step up. Nolan and Felia have 11 points each, and senior guard Daniel Rauch has scored eight.
“If we have an attack from within, we’re at best,” Barnes Arica said after the victory over Maryland. “And there’s always a lot of pressure on Naza, the double, triple team … so we just encouraged them to break the ball during the break and be aggressive with this guard.”
But against the Spartans and wild cats it was a whole different story. With Brown scoring 15.4 points per game and playing the role of second scorer, Michigan relied too much on Hillmon to bear the entire offensive burden.
Against Michigan, Wolverines failed to overcome their offensive deficit. Hillman scored 27 points, but without her cast Michigan failed. Rauch scored 12 points, but when Raamahi’s chief facilitator is also the second top scorer, the outlook is bleak.
In a triple overtime match with Northwestern, Michigan was unable to find any offensive sequence. Hillman scored just 16 points, well below her 20.9 points per game. Senior forwards Emily Keezer and Rauha have 13 each, but most of Rauha’s points have come in overtime.
“We’re trying to find our identity,” Barnes Arica said after the defeat from Michigan. “In the second game we lost a conference player who is our top scorer guard and is a dynamic player. So I think we’re trying to figure out where we’re going to score 15 points per game. ”
A series of defeats in two games against the Spartans and the Wildcats testifies more to Wolverine’s offense than two close victories. Without Brown, Michigan had to make its way into every game, hoping one of his bodyguards would find a spark. With Brown, the Wolverines have a clear idea of who will be their offensive production.
And with the fact that the fate of the Big Ten title hangs in the balance, Michigan needs that clarity.