Well, that game was certainly worth staying up for.
The fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines got the win against UNLV, beating the Running Rebels 74-61 in a game with incredible pace.
With the victory, the Wolverines will face Arizona on Sunday for a chance to win the Roman Main Event.
Here are the takeaways from Michigan’s third win of the season.
Moussa Diabate is a special player
UNLV kept it close for the majority of the first half and the start of the second half, but the spark Diabate brought off the bench gave the Wolverines all the momentum.
He looked incredible in that first half, scoring eight points in seven-minute stretch that included scoring in transition, a decent looking hook shot and an incredible coast-to-coast dunk.
That dunk was the play of the game. I mean, that was an absolute poster. That dunk made staying up until 3:30 a.m. completely worth it.
That spark from Diabate helped Michigan jump out to a lead that got as high as 12 before Bryce Hamilton’s hot hand helped the running rebels cut the halftime lead to three.
Diabate kept playing well in the second half, too. While Michigan’s starters were letting UNLV hang around, Diabate checked into the game and made an immediate impact.
His first defensive possession of the second half, he stole the ball before starting the fast break and helping Eli Brooks to a trip to the free throw line. He also played with an incredibly high motor, blocking a few shots, corralling a few offensive rebounds and even getting on the floor for loose balls.
His energy was incredible, as the freshman ended the night with 14 points, seven rebounds (four of which being offensive), two blocks and more than a few highlight plays.
Moussa Diabate is 100% going to lead the country in HSM per game this season.— Scott Bell (@sbell021) November 20, 2021
(Holy shit moments)
If Diabate wasn’t on the radar of NBA scouts already, he certainly is now after that performance.
We’ve seen a lot of promising stuff from Diabate in his young Michigan tenure, but this game showed why he can truly be a special player.
I liked how he looked playing alongside Dickinson too, and if he keeps playing like this, he just might force Juwan Howard to start him at the four before the year is over.
This game was a wake-up call for Michigan’s defense
Maybe it was Bryce Hamilton catching fire in the first half. Maybe Michigan isn’t used to games this late at night either. But Michigan’s defense looked inconsistent in this game and that could turn into a problem.
They got the turnovers when they needed to in the second half, but UNLV got way too many open looks on threes thanks to a few missed rotations and what looked like some miscommunications on switches.
The final score may be a little misleading for Michigan fans who didn’t stay up to watch this one, as Michigan could never really put the nail in the coffin because of these defensive lapses.
I do like trying new things with the 2-3 zone for a few possessions, but if a team that was picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West can navigate it, it clearly needs some work.
Michigan is one of the top rated defenses according to KenPom, but they haven’t played much like it the last few games. That’s an area you’d like to see more consistency from before conference play.
Dickinson and Brooks are the straws that stir the drink offensively
Diabate is going to be the story of this game with his contributions off the bench, but after four games, it’s clear Dickinson and Brooks are Michigan’s main playmakers.
They both can be counted on to get their own buckets, as Brooks led the team in scoring with 22 points and a few huge threes to gain a bigger lead on UNLV.
Dickinson had a down game by his standards with 13 points and six boards, but I was thrilled to see his improvements as a passer with three assists in this game, and was able to find Brandon Johns Jr. off of nice feeds in the mid-post. His court vision is elite offensively, as he’s one step ahead of the defense with some of his passes.
It should be interesting to see what this Michigan offense looks like if one of these two guys has a bad game. They’ve been huge for the Wolverines to start the year, and should be expected to take most of the shots in the final few minutes of close games.
Michigan lets teams hang around too much
It’s why they lost the Seton Hall game and it’s why this game was close for so long: a combination of offensive and defensive lapses makes it hard for Michigan to turn a six-point lead into a 12-point lead.
They need to be more consistent when it comes to shot creation and defensive switches in order to kill this recent trend.
The offense can look stagnant at times if one of Brooks or Dickinson is on the bench, and there are too many talented defenders on this team to let a squad expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West hang around.
This is a talented basketball team, but if they can’t figure out how to navigate those offensive and defensive lapses, they’ll drop a few more games then they were expected to.