For the second Sunday in a row, the Michigan Wolverines put a scare into its fanbase early on. However, the home team did not let this one linger into the second half of play. In fact, they blew their opponent right out of the building.
Michigan moved to 4-0 on the young season in a 80-58 win over Central Florida in Ann Arbor. They were down by as many as 12 points in the first half, but roared back due to some contributions from the second unit and a renewed focus that sparked them the rest of the way.
Chaundee Brown led the team in scoring with 18 points off the bench, while Hunter Dickinson helped the winning cause with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Here are a few quick observations from the win.
Terrance Williams = spark plug
We’ve written about it a few times, but prior to the season assistant coach Phil Martelli told the media that true freshman forward Terrance Williams impacts winning. Never has that been as apparent as it was in this game on Sunday.
Michigan looked listless and out of whack in the first 12 minutes of play in this game, but in came Williams (and his DMV teammate Dickinson, more on him soon) and he was the spark that was needed and then some. He finished the night with 10 points and 6 rebounds in 14 minutes of play and was part of a bench group that brought energy and life into the contest. Williams’ current role is probably perfect for where he is at in his development, but it is easy to see the effect he has on bringing his best effort to both ends of the floor.
The Hunter Dickinson Dilemma
It is not surprising to report at this point that Dickinson (24 minutes played on Sunday) is as advertised and the best center on the Michigan roster. So he should start, right? It is pretty clear he is a better player with a higher ceiling than Austin Davis (who you can still count on for 10-15 good minutes per night), but it might be a situation where the chemistry of the units brings more value that simply making a lineup change.
If you bring Davis off the bench in the same group as Williams and Brown, perhaps that same impact is not there for any of those guys. Part of what makes Dickinson so great off the bench is the chemistry he has with Williams. It’s one of those situations where for now, perhaps trusting Juwan Howard to keep pushing the right buttons is what needs to be done for now.
It was another sluggish start from Michigan with UCF jumping out to a 28-16 lead. The passes were lifeless, Franz Wagner was in foul trouble and Isaiah Livers was pretty much a non-factor. Those are things that can be labeled as outliers, but some of the early woes defensively were not. UCF is a bottom-half of the country offense and Michigan made them look the part on Sunday after a quick punch in the mouth early.
This team responds pretty well to adversity and it’s great to know that if Howard does not like what he sees, he can throw another batch of guys onto the floor to get things sorted out and bring some energy. In the grind that will be this season, that is absolutely critical. They might make it hard on themselves at times, but they pack a hell of a counterpunch.
On a night where Isaiah Livers did not score until late in the second half and Wagner dealt with early foul trouble, you still ran your opponent out of the building. You’ll take it.
Next up for Michigan is a showdown with North Carolina State on Wednesday at Crisler in this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tipoff in that game is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast via ESPN2.