'We have game': Bench busts Michigan out of first-half funk in blowout over UCF

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Heading into the season, freshman center Hunter Dickinson knew Michigan’s reserves could pack a powerful punch on a nightly basis.

Dickinson and the second unit put in on display once again Sunday as the Wolverines’ backups spurred a rally and completely flipped the game with a pair of momentous runs.

Behind a superb bench effort spearheaded by senior guard Chaundee Brown and a 20-0 second-half spurt, Michigan erased a 12-point first-half deficit and raced past Central Florida, 80-58, at Crisler Center.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 80, Central Florida 58

"We all had high hopes for this year,” said Dickinson, who posted his fourth straight double-digit scoring performance off the bench with 14 points and seven rebounds. “I think we all believe in each other and I think we (reserves) expected to be good. We all saw it in the preseason how good we're capable of being.

“We're five guys who are very confident in ourselves and know that when we go out there, we can make an impact on the floor. We know that we need the leadership from the first unit to help us out, but we're also capable of making our own sparks.”

UCF guard Brandon Mahan (13) guards Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) in the first half.

Brown finished with 18 points and four made 3-pointers and freshman forward Terrance Williams II added 10 points and six rebounds for Michigan (4-0), which received 49 points from its second unit. Senior guard Eli Brooks was the lone starter in double figures with 10 points.

Brandon Mahan scored 21 and Isaiah Adams 11 for UCF (1-1), which was outscored 42-24 in the second half, shot 24.2% (8-for-33) after halftime and fell to 0-8 all-time in true road games against Big Ten teams.

The Knights led by 12 twice in the opening 11 minutes before the Wolverines' bench ignited a 22-4 run that led to a four-point halftime lead. The starters fed off the spark and extended the lead after the break, rattling off a 7-0 spurt with a 3-pointer and floater from Brooks to make it 47-37 with 15:36 to play.

"I think we carried over the momentum really well from the ending of the first half,” Dickinson said. “Then the second unit came in and kept the same energy.”

The reserves did more than that, putting the game out of reach with the overwhelming 20-0 run. Brown got things going when he turned into a one-man wrecking crew with eight straight points, pump-faking and stepping into a jumper before draining back-to-back 3-pointers.

Dickinson added a pair of free throws and a layup, Brown splashed another deep ball and junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer. By the time it was over, Michigan led 67-41 with 7:44 to go.

Even after Central Florida snapped a seven-minute scoring drought and 0-for-11 shooting stretch, the Wolverines continued to pour it on. They pulled ahead 78-46 at the 3:41 mark on a pair of free throws from Williams before coasting to the finish line.

"We're here for a reason. The bench guys, we're all Division 1,” Brown said. “Coach (Juwan) Howard, all the coaches recruited us for a reason. He saw it in AAU, in college basketball — he saw that we have game.”

The huge bench boost helped Michigan overcome a rocky start as its defense struggled out of the gate. Lapses and breakdowns on ball screens coverages allowed Central Florida to get downhill drives and open pull-ups. To make matters worse, sophomore wing Franz Wagner picked up two fouls less than five minutes into the game.

Coupled with UCF's mix of man and zone that kept Michigan uncomfortable on offense, the Knights used an 11-0 run — capped by a fast-break layup from Mahan off a turnover — to open a 25-13 lead with 9:29 left in the first half.

But that’s when Michigan’s second unit stepped up, brought the energy and strung together stops after making defensive adjustments during a momentum-shifting spurt that featured contributions from Brown, Dickinson, Johns and Williams.

"We know that we always have to be ready. You never know what can happen,” Brown said. “Franz got in foul trouble pretty quick, so I knew I had to come in, make an impact and play my game.

"Even in practice when we're going against the first group, we've got to treat them like we're trying to beat them. We know they have a lot of talent on that first team, but they're making us better."

After Williams snapped a four-minute scoring drought with a three-point play, the quartet of reserves wiped out the deficit with their hustle, effort and a string of 15 straight points.

Brown scored on a fast-break layup off an outlet pass from Dickinson and buried a 3-pointer. Dickinson came up with an offensive rebound and threw down a putback dunk. Johns scored on a driving layup before Brooks got to the basket to give Michigan its first lead, 29-28, at the 4:18 mark.

Williams closed out the first-half surge with a 3-pointer as the Wolverines took a 38-34 lead into halftime and the reserves showed their might.

"I have a second unit that is selfless. They have bought into their roles,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “Our reserves delivered, especially when you have Franz Wagner who was in foul trouble, and then Isaiah (Livers) didn't have it going in the first half and Mike (Smith) wasn't playing like Mike.

“Bringing in guys like Hunter, Terrance, Brandon and Chaundee, they changed the game for us."


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins