On Juwan Howard’s 51st birthday, the Michigan Wolverines gifted him a complete performance, with U-M playing well in both halves, getting stops when they needed to, and finally finishing a close game to beat No. 11 Wisconsin, 72-68.
The Badgers have been on a roll this season; while they’ve lost their last three games to No. 2 Purdue, Nebraska and now Michigan, they boast an impressive 16-7. The Badgers only lost 1 game between Nov. 17 and Jan. 13, and that loss was to a good Arizona ranked No. 1 at the time. Wisconsin has had all the makings of a team capable of making a March run, but the Wolverines played spoiler tonight and picked up one of their best wins of the season.
Here are some takeaways from a much-needed win that snaps a five-game losing streak for the Wolverines.
Gotta give credit to the roommates
After all the turnover this off-season, Dug McDaniel and Tarris Reed Jr. were two of the best players left from last season’s roster. The sophomore roommates balled out in this one; McDaniel led the Wolverines with 16 points, and Reed had one of his more complete games of the season with 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks and a steal.
McDaniel started out hot in this one, making five of his first seven shots and scoring 11 points in that first half. He was the catalyst for Michigan’s offense, as the Wolverines needed his quickness off the bounce to get their offense going. He made the last field goal of the game to give Michigan a 69-64 lead with 1:12 to go, and his free throws put this one on ice.
While he’s had better games statistically, this might have been the best performance Tarris Reed Jr. had all season on both ends. He made six of his 10 free throws and made an effort to draw fouls, he got a few easy dunks, and most importantly, his defense was excellent. He held Steven Crowl, one of the better centers in the Big Ten, to just three points, staying physical and never letting Crowl get comfortable.
This season has been depressing in a lot of ways, but these two young men are the future of Michigan men’s basketball, and they played like it last night.
Michigan’s defense wasn’t great, but they got some crucial stops
The Badgers were able to claw back into this game in the second half, thanks to some defensive lapses by the Wolverines, who have allowed lots of shots at the rim all season long.
Props to Tony Garcia with the Detroit Free Press for pointing this out.
So it doesn't look like Wisconsin is having a lot of trouble getting to the bucket... Michigan's nine-point first half lead is gone, but you probably already assumed that.— Tony Garcia | Detroit Free Press (@RealTonyGarcia) February 8, 2024
Wisconsin has hit 5 straight to start the 2nd half, all layups, as leads U-M 43-42 with 15:51 to go. pic.twitter.com/KTjDpWQFy7
Michigan did not play great defense for most of this one, and their transition defense was especially bad, but they got the stops they needed to late, with Reed and Olivier Nkamhoua both having key blocks in the final few minutes.
Michigan was finally able to win a close game because of how they locked down in those final few minutes, as they forced the Badgers into some tough shots. That solid defense late won Michigan this game.
Another drought, but Michigan snaps out of it
A big reason why second half collapses have become commonplace this season are because Michigan can’t score consistently to stop it. We saw it against Illinois, we saw it at Michigan State, we saw it against Iowa, and we saw it in last night’s loss.
The Wolverines went nearly six game minutes towards the start of the second half (19:08-13:13) without a made field goal. In that stretch of time, Michigan lost their first half lead and Wisconsin went on a 13-4 in this span.
Despite that terrible stretch, tough makes from Terrance Williams and Olivier Nkamhoua helped Michigan take the lead back. The Wolverines made up for that drought with a 12-2 run of their own (13:47-8:48), which led to Michigan leading by six at the under-eight second half media timeout. They rode that lead the rest of the game.
For the first time in a long time, we didn’t see Michigan collapse during one of these scoring droughts. It may be too little too late this far into the season, but that’s still a huge bonus for Michigan’s confidence.
Michigan had them in the first half, not gonna lie
The Wolverines got off to a good start in this one, making just over 53 percent of their shots from the field. They moved the ball well, made their open shots, and held a lead over the Badgers for most of the first half, with the Wolverines leading 37-33 at the break.
I really liked the minutes with Dug McDaniel and Jaelin Llewellyn playing together in particular; McDaniel gets Michigan’s offense kickstarted with his driving ability, and Llewellyn has a knack for making the extra pass and finding the open shooter.
All things considered, it was one of the better first half performances in a season full of superb first halves.
A solid showing from Michigan’s bench
Michigan also got great contributions from their bench in that first half, with Will Tschetter, Tray Jackson and Llewellyn combining to score 10 points. This and-one from Will Tschetter off a beautiful pass from Olivier Nkamhoua was one of the best plays of the half.
That wasn’t Tschtter’s best play of the game, though; that play came in the second half, when Big Cheese hit a big three to give Michigan a nine-point lead with five and a half minutes to play. All in all, Michigan got 18 points from their bench in this one, with these important plays from Tschetter making a huge difference.
The Wolverines have another game later this week, as they head to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on a Cornhusker team that’s firmly on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament. That game is set to tip-off at 6:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.