In the back of their minds, every Michigan Wolverines fan probably dreamed of what the ideal version of this basketball team could look like. In that perfect world, Hunter Dickinson would dominate every possession inside, the Wolverines would be lighting it up from the deep and they could beat any team in the Big Ten by double digits.
That ideal game pretty much happened Sunday afternoon, as Michigan went into the Bloomington and dominated the Hoosiers, 80-62.
This was one of the Wolverines best performances of the season and if they can manage to play like this the rest of the year, they just might make the NCAA Tournament after all.
Here are the takeaways from the win:
Michigan was hot from deep (Houstan, we don’t have a problem)
It’s no secret the Wolverines have been absolutely abysmal from three-point range this season. The inability to make threes and keep the defense honest has contributed to Michigan’s putrid offense in losses this season.
That offense came alive against the Hoosiers, as Michigan couldn’t miss from beyond the arc; they actually shot better on threes (64.7%) than they did on all field goals combined (56.9%).
After only making 31.9% of his threes coming into Sunday, Caleb Houstan finally lived up to his five-star status by scoring a season-high 19 points and making 5-of-7 attempts from deep. A big reason why Houstan was able to knock down those shots was because they were wide open — they weren’t forced, they came in the flow of the offense and you could tell the kid was playing confidently after the first one went in.
He won’t shoot that good from deep every game, but Houstan being a reliable scorer from the wing opens up so many things for Michigan offensively.
Houstan wasn’t the only one hot from deep in this one. Hunter Dickinson (25 points, nine rebounds) made 3-of-4 three-pointers and cashed a nice Jokic-esque contested long two to show off his improved shooting stroke.
Hunter Dickinson letting the Indiana bench hear about it— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) January 23, 2022
It was also nice to see Terrance Williams II and Brandon Johns Jr. come off the bench and instantly make an impact. They combined to go 3-for-3 from deep while doing the dirty work on the other end of the floor.
It’s not like Indiana is a slouch of an opponent on defense either. They were coming off a big win against Purdue and is ranked first in the Big Ten and 17th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. But even the best of defenses can succumb to hot hands, and Michigan had a few of those. Hopefully yesterday’s performance was a wake-up call for a Michigan offense that had been lacking a spark all season long.
The Wolverines were dominant inside, and sound defensively
While the hot shooting helped Michigan establish a large lead for most of the game, the baskets it was able to get inside, along with winning the battle on the boards (36 to 26), helped secure the victory.
Not only was Dickinson money from deep, but he could do whatever he wanted in the post. Moussa Diabate also feasted inside, working well off Dickinson’s post moves and showing off some flashy moves of his own.
More than a few times this season, the Wolverines have been on the receiving end of a team’s best shooting performance of the year, but they were very sound on defense in this one. Indiana struggled offensively, making less than 40% of its field goals and only 26.3% of its threes. Michigan rotated really well defensively and forced Indiana into tough shots all game long, not allowing the Hoosiers to establish any sort of rhythm.
Diabate was especially impressive on defense in this one. It won’t show up in the box score because he had no steals or blocks, but the amount of shots he was able to contest or force Indiana into was impressive. The next time you throw on a Michigan game, do yourself a favor and zero in on Diabate on defense — the guy is incredibly alert and the amount of reads he is able to make so quickly might be his most underrated skill.
Continuing to dominate inside and playing sound defense will help a lot this season, especially on nights when they aren’t knocking down shots as easily as they did in this one.
Michigan finally has some momentum
Michigan fans shouldn’t count on the Wolverines making nearly two-thirds of its threes every game, but performances like this have to be a nice confidence boost.
With this win, the Wolverines have now won back-to-back games for the first time since the first week of December. They went through a rough stretch, and COVID certainly didn’t help, but they’ve finally built some momentum over the past week.
Michigan has to finish the month strong to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. This week, it has a home game against Northwestern (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) before traveling to East Lansing to face MSU (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., CBS).
It was so nice to see this Michigan team play to their full potential in this Indiana win; all you can do at this point is hope that the good times keep rolling.
(I guess you can also hope Dickinson learns some better dance moves)