Noon tipoffs on a Saturday can be a stumbling block for overconfident highly-ranked teams, especially ones coming off a Thursday night win over a Top 10 opponent. But that wasn’t the case for Michigan in its road matchup at Indiana today.
The Wolverines were in control for the majority of the 40 minutes against the Hoosiers, and pulled away in the second half for a 73-57 victory in Bloomington. That’s now seven consecutive wins for the Maize and Blue.
Michigan grabbed the lead in the early-proceedings, but the Hoosiers stayed tight in the Wolverines’ rearview mirror through the first 11 minutes of play. Michigan’s largest lead was just six points in that stretch.
However, Indiana went cold offensively and the Wolverines took advantage, going on a 10-0 run over the course of the next three minutes to take a 32-21 edge. Michigan used that momentum to take a 42-33 lead into the locker room.
In the second frame, the Wolverines turned up the heat, as Isaiah Livers found his stroke from the outside. The senior knocked down three triples, and had a ferocious putback dunk in the opening nine minutes of the second half to stretch Michigan’s lead to 59-42.
From there, the Hoosiers never posed much of a threat, and the Wolverines cruised to a 16-point win.
1. Franz leads the way again
Once again, Franz Wagner was the main act for Michigan. The sophomore set a career-high with 21 points on Thursday against Iowa, and matched that today against Indiana. Wagner was 6-of-9 from the floor, and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. He added 6 rebounds, 3 steals, a block and an assist. Players like this are so rare – Wagner is one of Michigan’s top scoring threats, he’s an excellent defender, he’s flashed his court-vision and passing ability, and he’s a good rebounding wing as well. The sophomore is the full package, and we’ve seen him put it all together and continue to improve throughout this season. Wagner definitely looks like an NBA Lottery pick right now, and if he keeps playing like this, he’ll lead the Wolverines on a deep NCAA Tournament run.
2. Livers, Smith dialed in from deep
Michigan, as a team, wasn’t as impressive with its outside shooting today, hitting a mediocre 8-of-21 attempts from the three-point line in Bloomington. However, seniors Isaiah Livers and Mike Smith were dialed in. Livers went 4-of-7 from deep and recorded a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. Smith, meanwhile, was also very efficient, shooting 4-of-5 from the floor (2-3 from three), and 4-for-4 from the foul line. The transfer from Columbia finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Smith was a little loose with the ball today, committing 5 turnovers, but it didn’t cost the Wolverines.
3. Dickinson’s defense standing out
The freshman has been so good on the offensive end of the floor that I’ve somewhat neglected just how good he’s been on defense. Dickinson helped Michigan limit Purdue’s Trevion Williams to 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, and held National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza to 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting just two days ago. Today, it was Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis who was the victim of Dickinson’s lockdown post defense. The Hoosier sophomore entered the game averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds on 53 percent shooting. But against Michigan, Jackson-Davis was held to 10 points, 4 rebounds and was 3-of-12 from the floor. The Wolverines’ team defense has certainly been a major factor in how these excellent Big Ten bigs have been limited, but that team defense in the post starts with Dickinson.
4. Wolverines dominate the glass
Michigan was an excellent rebounding team today, limiting second shots for the Hoosiers while creating plenty of second opportunities for themselves. The Wolverines outrebounded Indiana 38-27 overall, and had a 10-7 edge on the offensive glass. Michigan only managed 7 second-chance points, but held Indiana to just 2 second-chance points. This is what makes this team so good and so tough to beat – they compete in all aspects of the game. Hunter Dickinson’s size and length make him a natural rebounder, Livers and Wagner are long, athletic wings who rebound well, and even Eli Brooks managed to pull down 8 rebounds on Thursday against the Hawkeyes. These Wolverines are just so well-coached and well-disciplined in all areas.
5. Magic number down to ‘1’
The “magic number” for Michigan to clinch the outright Big Ten regular season championship is down to ‘1’, and they’ll have a chance to claim the title against the conference’s second place team on Tuesday. Illinois, currently ranked No. 5 in the country, will come to Ann Arbor on Tuesday. The Illini could see their ranking drop tomorrow, due to a loss to Michigan State earlier this week, but Illinois will be a Top 10 opponent at worse for the Wolverines. Michigan has three games remaining, with a home-and-home date against the rival Spartans following the showdown with the Illini. The Wolverines need one win, or an Illinois loss, down the stretch to be crowned champions of the nation’s best conference.