'We had to grind': No. 25 Michigan survives scrappy Oakland in OT
Ann Arbor — Michigan squared off against in-state foe Oakland for the first time in nearly a decade on Sunday.
The Wolverines probably won’t mind if they don’t see the Golden Grizzlies again anytime soon.
Michigan needed a bench boost from freshman center Hunter Dickinson to overcome a sloppy performance and avoid a huge upset, 81-71, in overtime at Crisler Center in the teams’ first meeting since 2011.
“Our guys did a great job of staying the course with how the score was going,” said Michigan coach Juwan Howard, whose team trailed for much of the second half and by as much as six.
“Our guys mentally did not get down on themselves or start pointing fingers. They trusted the process and stayed with it. We had to grind.”
Dickinson was dominant around the basket and finished with 19 points, all coming in the final 11 minutes of regulation and overtime. He went 6-for-8 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line, to go along with four rebounds and four assists.
Senior forward Isaiah Livers added 22 points and made five 3-pointers, including a dagger with 1:31 left in overtime, for No. 25 Michigan (2-0). The Wolverines, who were 30-plus point favorites, committed 20 turnovers — 15 coming in the first half — against Oakland’s zone defense.
After Michigan's disjointed final possession of regulation resulted in a missed jumper by Dickinson, the Wolverines wasted little time going right back to him. Dickinson overwhelmed Oakland with his size and the Golden Grizzlies didn’t have an answer.
He spearheaded a 9-0 run to open overtime with a layup and four free throws to give Michigan its largest lead since the first half, 73-67, at the 2:50 mark. Livers capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and ended the scare as Michigan staved off an Oakland team that was playing its fourth game in five days after a nearly three-week pause this month due to COVID-related issues.
"Honestly, I couldn't tell if they were gassed or not," Livers said. "When you have your schedules and you see you have your in-state rivalry or your in-state college that you want to go at or a school maybe didn't recruit you, you're going to get a little bit more adrenaline.
"You're not going to think about the past road trip you had and how tired you were. You can tell. They came out and hit us first. We were stumbling, but I felt like we recovered very well."
After trailing by two at halftime, the Wolverines opened the second half with a quick burst to go back on top, 36-33, on a 3-pointer from Livers. But the momentum faded fast as the Wolverines continued to have a tough time figuring out Oakland’s 1-3-1 zone.
Oakland took advantage and used an 11-2 spurt that was bookended by 3-pointers from Blake Lampman and Jalen Moore to regain a 44-38 lead with 14:47 to play.
The Golden Grizzlies were able to stay ahead until freshmen Terrance Williams and Dickinson checked in at the 11:23 mark and turned the tide. The two combined for 12 points during a pivotal stretch where Dickinson took over and put Michigan back on top, 57-56, at the 8:01 mark.
That set the stage for a back-and-forth battle that saw Oakland go back up by two and tie the game three times over the next six minutes. Each time Dickinson came through, twice with a bucket and twice with an assist to Livers that gave Michigan a 67-65 edge with 2:26 remaining.
"I think in the second half my teammates were able to find me,” Dickinson said. “They put me in great positions to score. Terrance started it off with some good entry passes that started to get me going. Then I think my teammates kept looking for me from there out and I just kept trying to deliver."
Oakland used two free throws from Rashad Williams to knot it at 67 with 28 seconds left before Dickinson misfired on Michigan's final possession and made up for it in overtime.
Moore finished with 19 points and Trey Townsend added 13 for Oakland (0-4), which experienced a COVID-19 outbreak during the preseason when nine players and five staff members — including longtime coach Greg Kampe — tested positive.
It’s made for a difficult opening week for an Oakland team that’s incorporating seven newcomers. The Golden Grizzlies were handed a 52-point thumping by Xavier, a 27-point beating by Toledo and a 14-point loss by Bradley at a multi-team event in Cincinnati due to a combination of slow starts, poor shooting and sloppy play.
Over the first three games, Oakland averaged 54 points, shot 27.5% from the field, had almost as many turnovers (48) as made field goals (50) and was outscored 139-60 in the first halves. Things got slightly better on Sunday as the Golden Grizzlies shot 32.8% from the field (21-for-64) but committed 16 more turnovers.
Despite Oakland’s woes, the Golden Grizzlies’ zone defense gave Michigan fits and left the Wolverines flustered from the early going.
"Oakland’s activity defensively, they were being active with their hands, playing the passing lanes, getting deflections,” Howard said. “I'm not going to sit here and say we didn't do well because we made mistakes on our own. No. Oakland's defense bothered us.
"We only had five turnovers in the second half, including overtime. But the first half, we cannot have a game where we're gifting our opponent 15 extra possessions."
Oakland took its first lead, 10-9, on a 3-pointer from Micah Parrish. It was short-lived as Livers and senior guard Eli Brooks answered right back with back-to-back deep balls to make it 15-10 with 14:13 left in the first half.
The Wolverines pulled ahead, 27-19, on a layup from junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. at the 7:15 mark. But careless passes allowed Oakland to hang around. And as the turnovers continued to mount, so did the frustration as TV cameras captured Livers and Howard getting into a verbal exchange during a timeout.
The Golden Grizzlies closed the half on a 14-4 run and took a 33-31 lead into the break, with the Wolverines entering halftime with more turnovers (15) than made field goals (12).
Livers viewed Sunday's ball security issues as an outlier and chalked it up to a "learning curve" he's glad happened now instead of later.
"They came out and made adjustments with their zone," Livers said. "We weren't ready at first and even part of the second half. It's always great to adjust, it's always great to learn and now we know how to go against a 1-3-1 matchup zone.
"We can take a lot of notes from this and we got some of our younger guys to step up, so there were more positives than negatives tonight."