Larry Lage, Associated Press

EN ARBOR – Naz Hillman and her teammates sat quietly in their locker room after helping Michigan earn a place in the Sweet 16th NCAA Women’s Tournament for the second year in a row.

Raamahi coach Kim Barnes Arica broke the silence by saying it was time to enjoy the achievement.

“We need to celebrate this moment,” Barnes Arica recalled, telling her players. “And in the locker room a little crazy.”

Hillman scored 27 points, 11 rebounds and five steals to help third-seeded Michigan break away and beat 11th Vilanova 64-49 in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament on Monday night.

Michigan Guardians Maddie Nolan (3) defends Vilanova guard Bella Ranyan (32) during the second half of a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan (AP Photo / Carlos Asoria)

“Not everyone gets to Sweet 16, and we need to celebrate,” Hillmon said. “That doesn’t mean we need to celebrate all week or until we play the next game.”

Wolverines (24-6) will meet South Dakota under the 10th crop on Saturday in the Wichita region.

Michigan took control with a score of 10-0 at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, turning a difficult game into a one-sided victory and taking advantage of the energy of 5581 fans in the stands.

“The energy and atmosphere there was absolutely insane,” said Leiga Brown, who scored 20 points behind Raamahi and looked fully recovered from a leg injury. “When it was 48-40, we didn’t hear ourselves.”

The Wildcats (24-9) led by three points after the starting quarter, but they just couldn’t stop Hillmon.

Vilanova is also struggling to overcome Maddie Zigris, who only for the sixth time this season is holding on to a single. The player, who finished second in the country with 25.8 points per game, scored 12 points with 5 of 13 shots. This season in November, the junior striker had only twice less points.

“They were really aggressive,” Zigris said.

The only other double-digit Wildcats player was Lior Lawn, who scored 11 points.

The home court was an advantage for Wolverine, whose fans filled the lower level of the Crisler Arena and spilled over into many sections of the upper deck.

They were very loud when Michigan scored the last six points in the third quarter, leading 48-4. Hillman made an offensive rebound to open the fourth, scoring at the moment 25 points and 10 rebounds, and a few moments later she came out on the floor for her fifth steal.

Michigan forward Naz Hillman (00) defends Vilanov striker Brian Herlichy (14) during the first half of a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan (AP Photo / Carlos Asora)

“Naz was extremely impressive and she showed that she is an American,” said Villan coach Denise Dylan. “That’s why Naz is such a great player. She plays at both ends of the floor at the highest level and she doesn’t get tired. That’s why she will be a great pro. “

The big picture

Michigan: Wolverines are set to make their longest run in the NCAA tournament. Last year, they lost to Baylor in their first performance at Sweet 16 in the program’s history.

Vilanova: Dylan in her second season topped the program in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018.

“I’m happy with this season overall, but today is tough,” she said.

With Sigrist returning to her senior season, the Wildcats are set to return for the second year in a row, for the first time since participating in four NCAA tournaments in a row from 2001-2004.

NEXT:

On Saturday in Wichita, Kansas, Michigan will play South Dakota, which knocked out Baylor with a second seed in one of the tournament’s biggest setbacks.

“The team we’re playing with is an incredible team, and they’ve shown that they’ve been able to defend Baylor,” Barnes said.

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