It was a challenge at time for the Michigan Wolverines basketball team in last night’s 88-76 win over Buffalo, but with a very young squad as opposed to a season ago, things like that are bound to happen from time to time.
By the time the game was all said and done, four true freshman saw the floor, and none of them may have had a bigger impact on the game than forward/center Moussa Diabate. The box score wouldn’t reflect that (seven point, five boards, three assists, two blocks), but he seemed to be in the right place at the right time for key moments in the game.
It seemed like every lineup change on the floor last night was a uniquely different one, and Diabate was a part of a few of them, playing at both the 4 and the 5 at times. Head coach Juwan Howard said postgame the lineup combinations are still a work in progress, but he loved what he saw out of the 6-foot-11, 210-pound Frenchman.
“Love it. Love it,” Howard said. “Doesn’t surprise me at all because that’s the kind of player he is. He brings energy, effort and toughness.
“We’re a work in progress, and we’ll continue to work on how we can improve with different lineups we throw at our opponents.”
Diabate showed off a little bit of everything in his toolbox last night. Running the floor and hustling to make it back to the defensive end, making nice passes to open teammates (with zero turnovers), throwing down a few slam dunks and coming up with some monstrous blocks as well. Adrien Nunez and Terrance Williams had a nice first half as well, but for my money, Diabate was the best player Michigan put out on the floor in the first half.
Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson has been practicing with Diabate for months now, but he also was impressed with how he played his first regular season game.
“Moussa played great,” Dickinson said. “Obviously, he’s just so active out there, really great defender. And offensively, he’s so gifted. I think he’s a mismatch problem for a lot of teams and he’s able to guard 1 through 5, so he’s a special piece for us that as the season goes on is going to keep getting better and better. I can’t wait to see him at the end of the season how good he is.”
Dickinson, who finished the game with a team-high 27 points, gave even more praise for Diabate, calling him a “freak of nature athletically,” and saying he has so much potential that “I don’t think he knows how much potential he has.”
“For us, we’re trying to show what he can do and how good he can be. The sky is the limit for him and he’s going to keep getting better as the season progresses,” he said.
If that’s the case, once Diabate realizes that potential, the Big Ten should watch out.