Showing an important defensive spark and overcoming a terrible start, Michigan’s men’s basketball team tackled Minnesota and got back into the winning column on Sunday afternoon. Junior Hunter Dickinson scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, and the Wolverines—who fell into a 14-4 hole early when he made one of his first 10 shots—led most of the second half, finishing with a 60-56 win.
Although a victory over Minnesota (1-7 Big Ten, 7-11 overall) wouldn’t do much to restart Michigan’s NCAA Tournament, it was a huge boost after the Wolverines (5-3, 11-8) suffered a loss Another frustrating Thursday in Maryland.
Thanks in large part to Dickinson, who added nine rebounds, Michigan held a 13-2 advantage on second chance points. The Wolverines also committed seven steals, won by a turnover margin, 15-10 and had a 23-4 advantage in points from turnovers.
However, the win did not come without injury, as Jett Howard went down with an ankle injury when he rolled his ankle on a Minnesota defender with 2:10 to go in the first half. Howard did not return to the game, and his forward status is unknown.
First half story
Despite their disappointing loss and playing the worst team in the league at home, the Wolverines started Sunday’s game as poorly as one can imagine. Michigan took only one of its first 10 shots, made three early turnovers and fell behind, 14-4 less than seven minutes into the game. Before Tarris Reed Jr. sank. With 11:09 to go in the first half that made it a 16-8 game, Michigan had as many turnovers (three) as putouts.
But after sparking solid minutes off the bench from Reed and Will Cheeter, the Wolverines managed to slow Minnesota’s offense. Trailing 20-10 with 9:18 left in the half, Tschetter made a charging call on Dawson Garcia, who was leading the game by seven points at the time. It was the second foul, so the forward was benched shortly after for the remainder of the half, and his absence appeared to rule the Minnesota offense. With Garcia on the bench, the Golden Gophers had 7:25 of the game’s action, missing 10 straight shots. Michigan per se didn’t light up, but closed a 10-point gap with an 8-0 lead down the stretch.
That elevated the game, and even after Jett Howard went down with an ankle injury with 2:16 left, Dug McDaniel’s 3 and Hunter Dickinson hit on back-to-back possessions allowed Michigan to salvage a savage start, entering the tying break at 23.
The story of the second half
Garcia’s return to the lineup paid immediate dividends for the Golden Gophers, as they opened the second period with a triple. Without Jett Howard, however, Dickinson stepped up on both ends of the field, scoring seven points in the first seven minutes of the game. The second half and grab rebounds in the stretch. His seventh point, a free throw and one, gave Michigan a 39-33 lead with 12:33 to go and forced a timeout from Minnesota.
The second half was not clean – Garcia seemed to stumble on the field with an ankle injury, while Dickinson faltered on the field as well. But controlling the paint and defending better than the first ten minutes, Michigan began to take control of the game.
Minnesota continued to take enough shots to hang around, but the Wolverines made nine free throws in the final five minutes of the game to seal the game.
In a game where Michigan needed him to be a star, Dickinson pulled it off. He led the game with 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, scoring 15 of his points in the second half. He added a team-best nine rebounds, making all nine of his free throw attempts. The rest of Michigan’s players were 11-for-36 from the field, so Dickinson’s presence on Sunday afternoon could have been the difference between a win and a loss.
Tschetter’s final score in the box—four points, two fouls, zero rebounds, assists or steals—wouldn’t be entirely remarkable. But the red-shirt freshman ran into two key errors, one in each half, allowing Michigan to regain momentum both times. He delivered energy on defense, too, ultimately finishing the contest with the game-leading plus-8 plus-minus.
Although Michigan will have little momentum, the Wolverines will need to bring their A game to next week, as they host No. 3 Purdue on Thursday night, then travel to face Penn State on Sunday. Both Quadrant-1 competitors, Michigan will be underdogs, and if the Wolverines want to make a surprise run to the NCAA Tournament, they will likely need to win at least one of them to set the stage for a strong February. Of course, forward Howard’s injury status will play a role in both of those games’ prognosis.