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Scouting Michigan women's basketball NCAA tournament first-round game vs. UNLV

Michigan women's basketball vs. UNLV

Breaking down Friday’s Greenville 2 region first-round game between No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 UNLV:

Records: No. 6 Michigan (22-9, 11-7 Big Ten); No. 11 UNLV (31-2, 18-0 Mountain West).

Fast facts: Time TBA, Friday; Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

TV: TBA.

At stake: Winner faces winner of No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Hawaii on Sunday for spot in Sweet 16.

Leigha Brown of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates her 3-point basket against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first half of the game in the second round of the Big Ten women's basketball tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis on March 2, 2023.
Leigha Brown of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates her 3-point basket against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first half of the game in the second round of the Big Ten women's basketball tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis on March 2, 2023.

THE U-M MEN:Michigan basketball trending in wrong direction. Juwan Howard must fix it this offseason.

TROPHY CASE:Michigan women's basketball has 3 players selected to Big Ten all-conference teams

About U-M

Location: Ann Arbor.

Coach: Kim Barnes Arico (11 seasons at U-M, 240-118 at U-M, 416-252 career).

School tournament record: 10-10 over 10 seasons.

Past 10 regular-season games: 6-4.

Scoring leaders: Leigha Brown, 18 points per game; Laila Phelia, 16.9; Emily Kiser, 16.2.

Rebounding leaders: Kiser, 7.1 rebounds per game; Brown, 5.2; Phelia, 3.9.

Assist leaders: Brown, 5.9; Kiser, 2.7; Maddie Nolan, 2.1.

3-point leaders: Elise Stuck, 57.1%; Kate Clarke, 50%; Phelia, 41.6%

The buzz: The sequel to the most successful season in program history — in which All-American Naz Hillmon carried the Wolverines to hosting first- and second-round NCAA games before U-M’s first ever Elite Eight appearance — has been uneven but encouraging. The returns of Brown and Kiser for a fifth season using the NCAA’s 2020 COVID waiver gave the Wolverines a “Big Three,” as 6-foot guard Phelia developed in her sophomore season. U-M pulled off several nonconference upsets, including wins over then-No. 21 Baylor and then-No. 6 North Carolina, but struggled at times against the cream of the Big Ten, including three losses to Ohio State — an unpleasant first in program history — two losses to Indiana and a road loss to then-No. 10 Maryland. Some of that can be attributed to the lack of Phelia, who missed the final seven games of the regular season with a lower-body injury suffered against Minnesota on Jan. 29; she missed the Wolverines’ second losses to the Buckeyes and Hoosiers. But overall, the Wolverines had issues with turnovers against all opponents; their 16.2 per game tied for 213th out of 350 schools.

Michigan Wolverines guard Laila Phelia (5) defends against Michigan State Spartans guard DeeDee Hagemann (0) during first-quarter action at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023.
Michigan Wolverines guard Laila Phelia (5) defends against Michigan State Spartans guard DeeDee Hagemann (0) during first-quarter action at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023.

About UNLV

Location: Las Vegas.

Coach: Lindy La Rocque (three seasons, 72-18 career).

School tournament record: 3-9 over nine seasons.

Past 10 regular-season games: 10-0.

Scoring leaders: Desi-Rae Young, 18.2 points per game; Essence Booker, 13.2; Nneka Obiazor, 12.4*.

Rebounding leaders: Young, 10.2 rebounds per fame; Alyssa Brown, 7.6; Obiazor, 6.5*.

Assist leaders: Booker, 4 assists per game; Kiara Jackson, 2.4; Justice Ethridge, 2.2.

3-point leaders: Kevana Wilfred, 66.7%; Obiazor, 40.9%*; Ethridge, 39.8%.

*Obiazor is out after undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

UNLV center Desi-Rae Young (23) goes up for a shot in front of Wyoming guard Tess Barnes (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the Mountain West tournament championship Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)
UNLV center Desi-Rae Young (23) goes up for a shot in front of Wyoming guard Tess Barnes (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the Mountain West tournament championship Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)

The buzz: It has been a rapid ascent for La Rocque, a Las Vegas native who spent five years at Stanford before doing two years as a grad assistant at Oklahoma. That, plus three more years as a Stanford assistant, is a pretty good development program, working under legends in the Cardinal’s Tara VanDerveer and the Sooners’ Sherri Coale. (Oh, and there were also two seasons under Cameron Newbauer, who led Belmont to two NCAA tourneys before getting hired at Florida.) After going 15-9 in La Rocque’s first season, UNLV went 26-7 last season, including a 15-3 mark in the Mountain West, then ran the table — 18 regular-season wins, plus three more in the conference tourney — this season. The Rebels dominate inside the arc, hitting 52.1% of their 2-pointers (good for 18th nationally) and average 39.6 rebounds a game (58th) en route to 77.2 points a game (21st). The Rebels didn’t play a particularly tough schedule, with their only matchup against a Power Five team coming on the road against Oklahoma State; Kenadee Winfrey hit three of 10 3-point tries to lead the Rebels with 13 points in a 25-point loss to OSU.

This story has been updated to reflect the injury status of Nneka Obiazor.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Scouting Michigan women's basketball's NCAA tournament vs. UNLV