Dickinson helps Michigan find groove in exhibition win at new WSU Fieldhouse

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan helped open Wayne State’s new arena and sophomore center Hunter Dickinson and Co. crashed the festive housewarming party.

Dickinson and the Wolverines shook off a sluggish start and took control with a late first-half run to christen WSU Fieldhouse with an 87-54 exhibition victory against the Division II foe on Friday.

“I liked our energy. I knew they were going to come out and score a lot of points early on because they've got the crowd,” said grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones, who finished with 10 points and seven assists. “First game here, we know how the excitement is going to be, so I was just proud of our defense.”

University of Michigan's Brandon Johns Jr. (23) drives to the basket on Wayne State's JR Forward Avery Lewis (33) at the brand new Wayne State University Field house during the in the first half on November 5, 2021.

Given all the new pieces on the team, it some time for the Wolverines to settle into a groove against the Warriors. But once Michigan went back to a familiar formula and started feeding Dickinson in the post, the Wolverines started to pull away.

After missing his first three shots, including a long jumper just inside the 3-point line, Dickinson scored on five consecutive possessions to kickstart a 31-7 run over the final 10-plus minutes of the first half.

During that stretch, Dickinson buried a right-handed hook shot over his left shoulder, used a spin move to lose his defender for an easy finish at the rim and split a pair of free throws to give Michigan its first double-digit lead, 27-17, at the 5:57 mark. By the time the flurry ended, Dickinson tallied 12 points as Michigan took a 48-21 lead into the break and never looked back.

More: Michigan basketball likes early chemistry as it heads into final tuneup vs. Wayne State

Dickinson led five double-digit scorers with 14 points and nine rebounds for Michigan, which shot 52.5% from the field (31-for-59) and led by as much as 37 points in the second half. Freshman big man Mousaa Diabate scored 14 off the bench, fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks added 12 points on four made 3-pointers and freshman forward Caleb Houstan scored 10.

"It's definitely a boost of confidence because we did some really good things,” Diabate said. "(The crowd) was great, especially when they started lowering down their voice. It was a great feeling. I love it.”

Darian Owens-White had 20 points for Wayne State, which shot 28.8% from the floor (23-for-80) and 22.2% from beyond the arc (4-for-18).

The No. 6 Wolverines will tip off the regular season on Wednesday with a home game against Buffalo.

Wayne State's SO Forward Mike Robinson (10) controls the ball in front of University of Michigan's FR Guard Frankie Collins (10) at the brand new Wayne State University Field house during the in the first half on November 5, 2021. (Photo by Dave Reginek-Special to the Detroit News)

Here are some other observations from Michigan’s lone exhibition:

► Michigan rolled out the same starting lineup it used in its closed scrimmage against DePaul last weekend, with Jones, Brooks, Houstan, Dickinson and senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. The group also started the second half.

► In terms of the rotation, the first player off the bench in both halves was Diabate, who subbed in for Johns both times. Diabate wasted little time making an impact and was active on both ends, particularly on the defensive end where he spiked down a shot attempt and rushed back to force a missed shot in a one-on-one situation on a fast break in the first half. On the offensive end, there were times he pushed the ball up the floor off a rebound and showed his footwork could be a work in progress, getting called for a pair of traveling violations under the rim.

► Senior Adrien Nunez was the first guard to check into game and replaced Brooks. When Jones and Brooks weren’t on the floor, freshman guard Kobe Bufkin ran point for a stretch during the first half. Bufkin also played alongside Brooks and Jones in three-guard lineup at one point.

► Heading into the exhibition, one area Jones said Michigan needed to improve was its team rebounding. In the first half, Michigan gave up eight offensive boards — some were long rebounds off errant shots — that led to eight second-chance points. It didn’t get much better as the Warriors grabbed nine more offensive rebounds in the second half.

"That cannot happen. We cannot have that,” coach Juwan Howard said. “Boxing out, energy and effort. It's correctable. We'll get to it and make sure we get better with it.”

► Freshman guard Frankie Collins and sophomore guard Zeb Jackson weren’t dressed for the exhibition. According to a Michigan spokesperson, Collins had a minor leg injury and Jackson was dealing with an illness unrelated to COVID.

When asked if he expects the team to be without Collins and Jackson for next week’s opener, Howard was uncertain and said they’ll take it “day by day.”

► All five freshmen who were able to play checked into the game. Houstan, Diabate and Bufkin received a healthy helping of minutes, while Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter saw action in the final few minutes of both halves.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins