'A game we needed': Dickinson's return sparks Wolverines to victory over Maryland
Ann Arbor — Maybe it had to do with the fact Michigan was playing at home for the first time in a month. Maybe it had to do with the return of sophomore center Hunter Dickinson. Or maybe some of it had to do with the team being in dire need of a confidence booster.
Whatever it was, the Wolverines found another gear Tuesday night against a reeling opponent and looked more like the team many had expected heading into the season.
Michigan asserted itself early, never let up and put together a sound effort to snap a three-game skid with an 83-64 wire-to-wire victory over Maryland at Crisler Center.
“We knew this was definitely a game we needed,” said grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones, who finished with 12 points. “We couldn't let this one go knowing we're already 1-3 in conference (play). This was a big game for us. We came in with a lot of confidence and just wanted to give the crowd a show.”
Dickinson was the starring act and dominated from start to finish. Back in the starting lineup after missing last week’s game at Illinois, he finished with 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting, six rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes to lead Michigan (8-7, 2-3 Big Ten).
Dickinson received plenty of support. Freshman forward Caleb Houstan snapped out of his shooting slump with 16 points and three made 3-pointers. Freshman forward Moussa Diabate added 14 points and six rebounds. The Wolverines shot 58.3% from the field (35-for-60) and 40% from 3-point range (8-for-20) and dished out 19 assists.
Following a dominant first half where Michigan led by as much as 21 and held Maryland to 19 points, the Wolverines widened the gap after halftime. The Terrapins had a tough time containing Dickinson’s scoring and passing on post-up touches. After backing down a defender and scoring at close range, Dickinson found Houstan for a 3-pointer to give Michigan a 46-21 lead with 18:30 remaining.
Even though Michigan had a letdown defensively in the second half, it was able to score enough to counter a hot-shooting stretch by Maryland. The Terrapins made 10 of 12 shots to chop the deficit down to 57-44 with 11:12 to play, but they never made things uncomfortable.
The Wolverines responded with six straight points, highlighted by an acrobatic finish by freshman guard Frankie Collins off a lob pass, to keep the Terrapins at a distance. Dickinson added a couple more baskets in the paint to push the lead back over 20 and give Michigan a 71-48 cushion with 5:17 remaining. From there, Michigan maintained an 18-point advantage before emptying its bench in the closing minutes.
Eric Ayala scored 22, Donta Scott 19 and Julian Reese 10 for Maryland (9-9, 1-6), which has lost five of six and trailed by double digits the final 26 minutes of the game.
“We had the effort and grit, and we kept it on,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We also had some more healthier bodies that were available. It's good to have one of your best players (Dickinson) back and healthy, so that helped. It gave us a lift that we needed.”
Michigan got off to a strong start with Dickinson and Houstan carrying the offense. The Wolverines played through Dickinson in the post and he opened the scoring with a bucket before dishing out a pair of assists out of double-teams.
Houstan knocked down his first three shots, including his first look from beyond the arc off a feed from Dickinson and a three-point play. The latter basket helped spark a 9-0 spurt that Diabate capped with a dunk and put Michigan up, 20-9, with 10:59 left in the first half.
Maryland, meanwhile, didn’t have much success against Michigan’s defense, which was active and engaged from the start. By the time the Terrapins cracked double digits in scoring at the 10:17 mark, they had more turnovers (six) than made field goals (five).
Things didn’t get much better for Maryland from that point on. The Wolverines took advantage of a rough shooting stretch and a four-minute scoring drought with a 13-0 flurry. Dickinson kick-started the run by setting up Jones for a 3-pointer with another pass out of a double-team. On the next possession, Dickinson drained a 3-pointer of his own. By the time Jones splashed another deep ball, Michigan’s lead swelled to 35-14 as it took a 20-point cushion into the break.
“We know that we're better than what we've shown, that we're capable of a lot more," said Dickinson, who didn’t practice much leading up to the Illinois game after clearing COVID protocols and sat as a precautionary measure. "I think today was an example of what we're capable of when we're playing our brand of basketball — when we're guarding, sharing the ball and making our shots.
“We showed why we were ranked so high in the preseason rankings. I think just taking it one game at a time, trying to not look ahead to any games because we're not able to do that with the hole that we've dug for ourselves. We’re 2-3 (in Big Ten play), so we’ve got 15 more games left. We're confident that we can make a run and turn the season around.”