2022 Women's Gulf Coast Showcase

Gulf Coast Showcase Recap: Michigan Shows Toughness On Its Way To Title

Gulf Coast Showcase Recap: Michigan Shows Toughness On Its Way To Title

In a classic championship round, Michigan claimed the 2022 Gulf Coast Showcase over a tough Baylor team.

Nov 28, 2022 by Briar Napier
Gulf Coast Showcase Recap: Michigan Shows Toughness On Its Way To Title

Pressure? What pressure?

It would’ve been reasonable for Michigan women’s basketball to feel a little extra weight on its shoulders this season after the program’s best-ever campaign in 2021-22, but so far, the Wolverines are passing every test put in front of them with flying colors.

And in no setting so far this year did the team prove that to be more true than with three impressive (and consecutive) days at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase at Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida.

Following a deep tournament run a year ago, Michigan proved itself to be a team to be taken seriously again — even with some key departures on the squad — against a seasoned crop of talented teams full of postseason experience of their own in southwest Florida this weekend.

Here’s a look at what all went down over the past three days at the Women’s Gulf Coast Showcase, won by Michigan after it won the championship game Sunday evening over fellow finalist Baylor:

Michigan Shows Late-Game Grit to Win The Title

Michigan’s Gulf Coast Showcase win didn’t come easy. In fact, on back to back nights at Hertz Arena, it looked as if the Wolverines were down and out for the count at points. But thanks to late-game runs and resiliency in consecutive games, Michigan has a new tournament trophy to put in its cabinet and has now started 7-0 overall for the third year in a row.

After comfortably handling Air Force on Friday in a 20-point win, the Wolverines were pushed to the limit in Saturday’s semifinal against South Florida, but kept their cool to eventually go on and win against the Bulls despite trailing at the end of the third quarter and being down five with under six minutes to play.

And though USF is certainly no slouch of a program after making back-to-back NCAA Tournaments the past two seasons, Michigan’s title-game fightback against a fellow Associated Press Top 25-ranked team in Baylor looked especially impressive. Even without impressive Missouri transfer Aijha Blackwell (14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds in three games this year) in the lineup as she nurses a knee injury suffered prior to the Gulf Coast Showcase, the Bears had 22 points from guard Jaden Owens and double-digit scoring numbers from three other players, as well, granting Baylor a two-possession lead with just under five minutes remaining as a paved path to a tourney title of its own.

But Michigan finished the game on a tear, scoring 20 points in the final 4:39 — as well as locking in on defense — to blitz past the Bears with a late surge and capture the 84-75 victory.

Early on in 2022-23, there looks to be no hangover from the Wolverines’ history-making campaign a year ago, when they made the Elite Eight for the first time. If Michigan keeps that mojo going into and throughout the new year, that’s bad news for the rest of its opponents.

Kiser Becoming A Breakout Star

Speaking of that historic run last year from Michigan, much of it was to do with the play of now-Atlanta Dream power forward Naz Hillmon — a former Big Ten Player of the Year, two-time First Team All-American and arguably the greatest player in Wolverines history. One of the biggest questions coming into the year for Michigan was how it was going to replace such a major piece of its identity for several seasons — especially down low in the post — with Hillmon’s departure to the professional game.

With the breakout emergence of Emily Kiser to kick off the Wolverines’ current campaign, perhaps those questions have been answered. Using her additional granted year of COVID-19 eligibility this season, Kiser’s career would’ve otherwise ended this past March with plenty to be proud about (starting all 32 games last season, All-Big Ten Honorable Mention nod, etc;), but also an understanding that she was clearly second fiddle in the interior when Hillmon ran the show.

Now, with Hillmon away, Kiser has filled the production gaps left behind with fantastic early-year success. The MVP of the Gulf Coast Showcase, the 6-foot-3 grad student from Indiana had a defining performance in the title game against Baylor, scoring a career high 26 points to go with 13 rebounds as she patrolled the paint with dominance.

It wasn’t just a flash in the pan, either: Kiser entered the year with no 20-point games in her career, whereas through seven games this time out, she has five as Kiser has more than doubled her previous career best season scoring average thus far with a team-high 20.1 points per game. Michigan’s all-too-familiar unbeaten start to the year is impressive, but without Kiser’s breakout performances, it likely wouldn’t have been possible in the first place.

Villanova Routs USF to Take Third

Anytime Villanova and superstar forward Maddy Siegrist steps onto the floor, it’s must-see streaming or television, even if the Wildcats aren’t playing for a first-place piece of hardware.

Case in point — just look back at the way Siegrist sliced and diced through defenses all weekend at the Gulf Coast Showcase, including South Florida’s, which wasn’t spared as ‘Nova romped to a 72-50 victory to capture third place in The Sunshine State while Siegrist picked up her 2,000th college point in the process.

After a five-point loss to Baylor on Saturday that added a loss to its 5-0 start to the season and denied it a spot in the Gulf Coast Showcase championship game, Villanova responded by rolling out to a 25-11 start in the first quarter and largely coasting from there, holding the Bulls to 19-for-56 shooting (33.9%) from the floor and a 1 for 9 (11.1%) clip from 3-point range for the game.

Siegrist got the milestone point on a third-quarter jumper, joining program legends Shelly Pennefather and Nancy Bernhardt as the only Wildcats to reach 2,000 points in their careers, and her ridiculous scoring average at the moment of 27.4 points per game — currently the No. 1 nightly average in America — would see her on pace to pass former Wade Trophy winner Pennefather as the program’s all-time leading scorer later in the regular season.

Though it’s a bit unfair to call Villanova a one-woman show as players like sophomore guard Lucy Olsen (who scored in double figures in all three Gulf Coast Showcase games) have carved out solid, reliable complementary roles, there’s little reason for the Wildcats to do much else at the moment than to give the keys to the offense to Siegrist and let her take over.