After a shaky 4-3 start with a couple of blowout losses, the Michigan Wolverines were in desperate need of a strong performance today against the visiting Aztecs of San Diego State. That’s exactly what they got. Michigan pulled away in the second half and earned themselves a 72-58 victory.
It looked like it could be another lackluster performance early as Michigan struggled out of the gates and trailed 13-12. Enter Frankie Collins. Collins had a great day and proved he should be on the court more, and got that increased playing time in the second half. Collins brought the energy of both ends of the court, which was desperately needed on offense. Michigan looked much improved on that end of the court today, shooting 47% from the field and 55% from three. Things seemed to flow much better when Collins was out there, and that mixed with dominant defense led to a stress free win for the Wolverines.
“It’s a big spark,” Collins said when asked about the spark he brings when he’s on the floor. “I just feel like it’s how I am, energy all over the place. I just want to get stops, I don’t like to be scored on, so I feel like I feed that energy into the players in the game, and I really just try to have fun, so it’s a big spark.”
Juwan Howard had very high praise for his young point guard after the game.
“With his quickness, his toughness, and his energy, it definitely ignited us today,” Howard said. “It’s beautiful to see a young guy growing game after game. He’s special in a lot of ways. I wish you guys could get a chance to see him each and everyday like me and the staff have had the luxury of. Seeing a young man come in with a smile on his face, taking ownership with things he feels he can improve on... how he can help serve the team. His smile is so infectious, I said to him ‘If you ever come in without a smile now, then something’s wrong with you, it’s time for us to talk.’”
One aspect of Michigan’s game that could become their identity is the defense. When the Wolverines have struggled this year, it has been primarily on offense. Everything seemed pretty strong today, but the defense really stood out.
Michigan held the Aztecs to 58 points on 39% shooting and 26% from behind the arc. They also forced 16 turnovers. Michigan pulled out the full court press during the game, which certainly helped their defensive efforts.
“Being able to get, not only the steals and the 10 second calls, those are incredible momentum boosts, but just being able to get them out of their normal offense,” Hunter Dickinson told reporters after the game. “Having to start with a lower clock, stuff like that helps us have to guard less which is helpful because you don’t have to expend as much energy as having to guard for a full 30 seconds. That was big for us, especially towards the end of the second half when guys were getting tired because they were playing heavy minutes.”
Another big storyline from the game was Hunter Dickinson’s monster performance. Michigan’s star big man had 23 points and 14 rebounds, but also went 3-3 from 3, something he worked on a lot during the offseason.
“It was good for all the hard work I put in the summer, in the fall, and in the season to finally pay off,” Dickinson said. “I give a lot of credit to the managers...those guys have really been in the gym with me whenever I wanted to, they’re always available and I’m really thankful for them because they really push me and great people to have in the back that don’t really get the recognition, but I think they’re a huge key to helping us as a team get better.”
Michigan goes on the road to Lincoln on Tuesday night to open up Big Ten play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.