Michigan's Hillmon erupts for career-high 50 points in loss to Ohio State
The junior's performance marked the highest-scoring output in Division I basketball this season
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Michigan junior Naz Hillmon erupted for 50 points and 16 rebounds on Wednesday against Ohio State, though her No. 11 Wolverines fell to the 17th-ranked Buckeyes on the road, 81-77.
The performance marked a career-high in scoring for the preseason Big Ten Co-Player of the Year, who shot a remarkably efficient 20-for-30 from the field. She surpassed her previous Michigan best (35) that she set — and subsequently matched — earlier this season against Oakland and Nebraska.
“I would have to just give credit to my teammates and my coaches,” said Hillmon. “They saw that I was heating up, somewhat on fire, and they really got me the ball down the stretch. I cannot complain about that. They just really opened up things for me, running play after play, getting me touches up and down the floor whether that was in transition or half court, and they just believed in me to make those shots.”
Hillmon scored 31 points in the second half as she attempted to lead her team back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit. The Wolverines took a 74-73 lead late in the final period on her free throw before Ohio State’s Jacy Sheldon responded with a three, giving the Buckeyes the lead for good.
Hillmon’s 50 points marked the third-greatest scoring output in Big Ten Women’s Basketball history and the best since 2016. Her performance also broke a program record for Michigan men’s or women’s basketball.
“I’ve coached some really great players, really really great players in my time. No, I’ve never seen a performance like that,” said Michigan Head Coach Kim Barnes Arico. “She was kind of in a refuse-to-lose mentality, and what a special performance from an incredible, incredible player.”
Hillmon now leads the Big Ten in both scoring (26.1 ppg) and rebounding (12.3 ppg). She’s particularly adept at collecting offensive rebounds, as she entered Thursday’s game with 50 on the season — 12 more than the second-best in the Big Ten.
“She’s undersized, and most people would be like ‘Oh, she can’t get away with being that size in a Power Five conference…’” Barnes Arico said. “But as much as she’s 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2, her wingspan, her length is like 6-foot-8. She can just go after the basketball, her hands are incredible.”
Only Akienreh Johnson cracked double-digit scoring outside of Hillmon, as the rest of the team combined to shoot 4-for-27 from the field. Nebraska transfer Leigha Brown, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed her fourth consecutive game due to COVID-19 protocols.
Thursday’s loss was the first of the season for the Wolverines, who now sit at 10-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play.
“We found something in this loss that means that it’s time to get back into the gym and get some shots up, run some new plays,” Hillmon said. “I just think as the time goes on, you win a bunch, win a bunch, and sometimes can forget about the things that you can get better at. But we found that tonight.”
Michigan will look to rebound at home on Sunday against Purdue.