ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Naz Hillmon had 28 points and eight rebounds in her final home game, lifting No. 6 Michigan to a 62-51 win over Michigan State on Thursday night to earn at least a share of the Big Ten women’s basketball title for the first time in school history.
The Wolverines can claim the Big Ten championship outright if they close the regular season with a win on the road against No. 21 Iowa. The Wolverines are not interested in allowing any team to share the title.
“We definitely want all of it,” Hillmon said.
The Wolverines (22-4, 13-3 Big Ten) pulled away from the Spartans with a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
Michigan State (14-13, 8-8) led by nine points early in the game, but could not sustain success to pull off a second straight upset against its rivals.
Michigan State’s Nia Clouden scored 22 points and freshman DeeDee Hagemann had eight points in the first quarter, 13 points at halftime but was held scoreless in the second half.
When the game ended, Spartans coach Suzy Merchant walked across the court to say a few words to Michigan’s four seniors.
“I just have a lot of respect for those kids, who stayed the course,” Merchant said. “The four of them have done a lot for this program, Naz in particular.
“I wanted to make sure I congratulate them and to wish them well. I’ll be happy to see them go, though.”
When the Hillmon-led class enrolled at Michigan, helping the program win its first Big Ten title was a goal.
“It has been something our class has talked about since we got here,” she said.
Hillmon, a senior forward, was her team’s only double-digit scorer. She had 27 points and nine rebounds in the loss at Michigan State earlier this month, when the Wolverines had an eight-game winning streak snapped.
The Spartans started strong in the rematch, leading 14-5 late in the first quarter.
Hillmon kept the Wolverines in the game, scoring six of their seven points in the opening quarter. She had 17 of the team’s 20 points midway through the second quarter.
When her teammates started to help offensively, Michigan took its first lead 28-26 on Maddie Nolan’s 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the first half.
“We’re not going to be a championship program if we only have one player,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said.
Michigan State stayed competitive through the third quarter, trailing by just four points, before fading away in the fourth.
“We put up a really good fight,” Clouden said. “When the fourth quarter came, our offense went dry. It probably was fatigue.”
Michigan State: Hosts No. 17 Ohio State on Sunday.
Michigan: Plays the 21st-ranked Hawkeyes on the road Sunday with the Big Ten title at stake.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25