Michigan didn't play its best game from a defensive standpoint, when it came to fouls or if we're talking turnovers, but they made the necessary plays down the stretch to get another solid win, their third in a row.
The Wolverines were down 7 points with right around five minutes to play and then sophomore big man Hunter Dickinson fouled out. Freshman big Moussa Diabate also fouled out, which meant Juwan Howard had to go with walk-on Jaron Faulds in crunch time. Faulds wasn't perfect, missing some shots and two free throws, but he played solid enough defense when needed and helped U-M close it out. Instead of folding with their two bigs on the bench, the Wolverines bowed up, got some stops, knocked down a couple of big shots and defended their home court en route to a 72-70 win over an always-scrappy Northwestern team.
Freshman Caleb Houstan again looked like the five-star he is scoring 18 points on a 5-for-7-effort from behind the three-point line. Once again, DeVante' Jones also stepped up and put up 15 points of his own while dishing out six assists. Eli Brooks scored 12 to wrap up Michigan's double-figure scorers.
Howard's crew is now officially on a winning streak with a trip to East Lansing looming. If Michigan is going to win inside the Breslin Center on Saturday, the same trio that has been stepping up needs to do it again. When Dickinson, Houstan and Jones are all playing well, the Wolverines are extremely hard to beat. Dickinson wasn't his best tonight, and you see the results — a scary two-point win over a 9-9 Northwestern team. But when he's on, which is when he's scoring, defending cleanly, finding open shooters and playing with energy and intensity, there's no one who can completely shut him down. That third part of Dickinson's game is important because of how much it affects what Houstan can do. We're now seeing a trend where Houstan almost always sets up opposite Dickinson so he can receive a skip pass or a kick out whenever the big fella is doubled. It's allowed Houstan to really find his stroke and perform like most expected him to.
And as for Jones, he has settled down. He had another solid game where he scored 15, assisted six times and grabbed a couple boards. It's also worth noting he only had three fouls as well. He seems to have gotten that issue under control. He did turn it over three times, but did so as the primary ball handler in a 31-minute performance. Not everyone can be Eli Brooks, who played a team-high 37 minutes with zero giveaways.
Michigan is going to be confident heading into enemy territory on Saturday, and rightfully so. Three wins is officially enough to give you an edge and they'll need that in East Lansing this weekend. The Spartans are 15-4, but have lost two of three, including at home to the feisty Northwestern team that just pushed U-M to the brink in Ann Arbor. All of that will be discussed ahead of Saturday's game between the maize and blue and green and white, the first such matchup this season as the first contest was postponed due to COVID issues.