Michigan rides big first-half run to blowout win over Southern Utah

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Coming off last weekend’s ugly loss to Minnesota, Michigan had a lot of time to look in the mirror and see how it could improve.

Turnovers. One-on-one defense. Post entries. Communication. All of it was emphasized and focused on heading into Saturday night’s matchup against Southern Utah.

There was plenty of carryover as the Wolverines rode an overwhelming 34-6 first-half run and a fourth straight double-double from sophomore center Hunter Dickinson to an 87-50 blowout win at Crisler Center.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 87, Southern Utah 50

“I feel like this week of practice was our probably our best. We were going at each other, really competing,” said grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones, who turned in arguably his best outing of the season with 13 points and six assists. “We were doing one-on-one, full court, a lot of talking. I think we did everything with pace this game. We waited on the screen and we were just having fun.

“I feel like the last couple games we haven't been having fun. Today was a game that we showed when we have fun together and we play as a team we can be a really dangerous team."

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, left, shoots over Southern Utah forward Maizen Fausett.

Dickinson finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 11-for-15 shooting to lead the way for Michigan (7-4), which shot a blazing 63.6% from the field in the first half (21-for-33) and a season-high 56.3% (36-for-64) for the game.

Michigan got off to a sharp start behind Jones and Dickinson, who shouldered the load in the early going. Jones scored on a driving layup, knocked down a floater in lane and drained a 3-pointer when defender went under a screen to give the Wolverines an 11-7 lead with 15:35 left in the first half.

Dickinson then ignited a 14-0 flurry as the shots continued to drop at a high rate for the Wolverines. He spun away from a double-team along the baseline and threw down a two-handed dunk. Jones hit another 3-pointer and knifed his way into the lane to feed freshman forward Moussa Diabate for an alley-oop. By the time Dickinson capped the stretch with a baby hook, the Wolverines expanded the lead to 25-10 at the 9:55 mark.

More: Juwan Howard, Wolverines get plenty of high-profile support against Southern Utah

Michigan kept pulling away and closed the half on an 18-4 run over the final 8:11 as Southern Utah muddled through a 2-for-14 shooting stretch, with many misses coming from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Terrance Williams II started a string of 14 unanswered points with a 3-pointer. Freshman guard Kobe Bufkin (11 points) added a three-point play after scoring on a fast-break layup while being fouled.

Southern Utah simply had no answer Dickinson down low as the deficit continued to grow. Williams found Dickinson in the paint for a pair of easy baskets before the big man corralled an offensive rebound and scored on a putback to give Michigan a commanding 49-20 halftime advantage.

“With Hunter, it's nothing I haven't seen before,” coach Juwan Howard said. “He got the ball in spots where he was able to be efficient by making quick moves. He also was aggressive too, whether it was spinning to the basket to finish over top of defenders or when he caught the ball in low post by staying low and taking his time. He also shot jumpers when it was given to him. It was a great balanced game for Hunter.”

The Wolverines weren’t nearly as crisp right out of the break, but it mattered little as Dickinson kept feasting. Jones skipped a pass to Dickinson in transition for an uncontested jam. Dickinson finished over a defender with right-handed hook shot. He threw down another dunk on an offensive putback to make it 57-25 with 15:49 left to play.

The Wolverines pushed the lead to 63-28 at the 12:54 mark when Diabate capped a string of six straight Michigan points by throwing down an alley-oop dunk from freshman guard Frankie Collins, putting the game well out of reach.

From there, the lead never dipped below 28 points and ballooned to as much as 38 points the rest of the way as Howard dove deeper into his bench and some of the younger Wolverines saw extended action.

Dre Marin scored 12 for Southern Utah (7-4), which saw its six-game win streak come to an end. The Thunderbirds shot a season-worst 32.8% from the field (19-for-58), finished 4-for-23 from 3-point range and were held to a season-low 50 points as a result of a strong bounce-back effort from the Wolverines.

“It's not just the drills, it's just been their attitude. They came in Monday with a lot of energy and they were razor-sharp with their focus,” Howard said. “No one came in with a head down. Everyone was eyes open, ears perking.

“No one felt good after (last) Saturday’s loss (to Minnesota). When you see your team come in and respond the way they did on practice on Monday, but then also consistently brought it again on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, that's the Michigan team I know. And we're going to need that.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins