Back in the friendly confines of the Crisler Center, No. 7 Michigan returned to form – beating another Big Ten opponent by over 20 points.
Coming off Saturday’s poor showing at Minnesota, the Wolverines returned to the win column with an 87-63 victory over Maryland. It was their fourth consecutive victory by at least 19 points.
There was no slow start tonight for the Wolverines, who scored the game’s first 8 points and kept rolling from there. Michigan built a 17-3 lead on the back of a 5-for-5 start from three-point range in the opening six minutes.
The Wolverines maintained control for the remainder of the half, taking a 42-25 lead into the locker room.
Michigan carried momentum into the break due to a last second three from Franz Wagner, and the Wolverines picked up right where they left off to start the second half – Eli Brooks knocked down a triple on Michigan first possession. Michigan was 9-of-15 from deep at that point in the contest.
Quickly increasing their lead to 20 points, the Wolverines held this game in a vice grip for the duration of the game, outscoring Maryland 45-38 in the second half. Wagner turned in another strong all-around performance with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block.
1. Isaiah Livers finds his stroke
Isaiah Livers got off to a great start this season in the nonconference portion of Michigan’s schedule – shooting 56 percent from the floor and 48 percent from three-point range. Those numbers came down, expectedly, once Big Ten play got started – Livers is 27-of-66 (41 percent) overall and 13-of-37 (35 percent) from deep in conference play. On Tuesday, Livers returned to that early season form, dropping 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including four triples. The senior was locked in and comfortable from the opening tip against the Terrapins. Livers added 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal to round out his night. With Michigan’s depth, the Wolverines don’t need Livers to carry the scoring load night in and night out, but it was encouraging to see the senior rise up and knock down big shots in this one.
2. Eli Brooks returns to the lineup
Michigan was back to full strength once again with the return of starting shooting guard Eli Brooks. The senior gave the Wolverines a boost to their perimeter defense and another scoring threat on the perimeter. Brooks had a quiet night in the scoring department, finishing with 7 points on 2-of-5 shooting, but his presence was felt elsewhere as he contributed 5 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal. The senior is one of the unheralded guys on Michigan’s roster, but his absence was felt in the Wolverines’ loss at Minnesota, and he reminded us why tonight against Maryland.
3. Dickinson stymied, shooters left open
The freshman was dominant in the first matchup with the Terps, finishing with 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting and adding 11 rebounds. It was clear early in this one that Maryland was not going to allow Dickinson to feast on them again, as the Terrapins threw hard double-teams at the freshman throughout the game. Dickinson was limited to just 3 points in tonight’s rematch, but did contribute 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. The freshman’s bigger impact, however, was what those double teams opened up for his teammates. Michigan made 11 of their first 19 three-point attempts, as the post doubles turned into open looks from the perimeter. The Wolverines finished the game 12-of-24 from deep, punishing the Terrapins for the extra attention they gave Dickinson down low. If Michigan can continue to knock down triples at a high rate, future opponents will have to pick their poison – either leave shooters open, or risk Dickinson having a big night in the post.
4. Johns Jr., Davis strong off the bench
While Dickinson was limited, the Wolverines got a boost from its backup post guys – Brandon Johns Jr. and Austin Davis. Johns Jr. scored a season-high 11 points for Michigan, while adding 4 rebounds. The junior hasn’t taken many three-pointers this season, but he’s been effective when he has pulled the trigger, hitting 5-of-8 attempts from deep on the year. Meanwhile, Davis also made a nice contribution, scoring 9 points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting. The senior also had a steal and a block defensively. These two guys gave Michigan exactly what it’s looking for behind Dickinson. John Jr. can be a little loose with the basketball, and Davis is limited as a defender, but if they can combine to score 10 to 15 points per night, and grab a handful of rebounds, they’ve done their job. They did that and more on Tuesday night.
5. First-place Wolverines hit the road
With the victory, Michigan improves to 12-1 overall and 7-1 in Big Ten play, sustaining their half-game lead over the Iowa Hawkeyes atop the Big Ten standings. I was curious to see how the Wolverines would react to their first loss of the season – they were dialed in from the get-go, grabbed an early advantage, and never looked back. Up next, Michigan hits the road again, traveling to Purdue for another important road challenge. The Boilermakers rallied late in Columbus on Tuesday for a 67-65 road win over No. 15 Ohio State. Purdue has now won four games in a row. The Wolverines are 2-1 on the road this season, and still have to prove they can beat good teams away from Crisler. This Friday’s matchup in West Lafayette provides them with a chance to do just that.