The Michigan Wolverines and Kentucky Wildcats faced off in London for the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase on Sunday afternoon. For the second game in a row, the Wolverines would compete with a top-25 opponent and squander an opportunity to put a marquee win on their resume during nonconference play.
It was a clash of two of the best big men in the country in London between Hunter Dickinson and reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tscheibwe. They were going at it on both ends in the first half as things were beginning to get chippy between the two. Tscheibwe’s physical style was giving Dickinson fits as the Kentucky big man nabbed seven boards in the opening period.
Still, Dickinson was holding his own. The Wildcats elected to double-team him on a number of possessions, and as always, Michigan’s center was able to flash some of his passing. Dickinson’s drop coverage led Tscheibwe to take some awkward midrange shots that made him just 4-for-8 in the first half.
Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin stepped up for the Wolverines on both ends as Jett Howard went to the bench with two early fouls. He had nine points, three assists, a block and a steal in a strong first half. Over the past few games, it seems like he is really coming into his own and building confidence.
With Howard sidelined, redshirt freshman Isaiah Barnes got a bit of run late in the first half when he drilled consecutive three-pointers. However, the Wolverines would find themselves down 37-36 at the break after scoring just two points in the final four minutes of the period.
Kentucky came out of the break hot as freshman Cason Wallace drilled three-straight shots including two from deep. The Wildcats’ lead was stretched to eight points, but Tscheibwe picked up his third foul and Michigan started feeding Dickinson in the post. He’d score nine of the Wolverines' next 13 points as the maize and blue went on a 13-4 run.
Then, every starter except for transfer point guard Jaelin Llewellyn went to the bench with about nine minutes left. It was the second time in as many games that Juwan Howard put in almost his entire second unit. This lineup didn’t last long, as Llewellyn went up for a shot and landed awkwardly, grabbing at his knee. After a few minutes of laying on the court, the senior guard would walk off on his own power. We’ll keep you updated here on Maize n Brew with any news about the severity of the injury.
Dug McDaniel will be asked to step up in his stead, and he immediately came in and hit a three after a screen and roll with fellow true freshman Tarris Reed. The Kentucky lead was cut to just two points, but after that the Wolverines missed four straight and the Wildcats suddenly led by eight, 58-66.
A Bufkin steal and then drawn charge a few possessions later caused a huge swing in the game. The Wolverines gave themselves a chance to win this game as the score was 68-66 with a minute and a half left.
That opportunity went away pretty quickly. Cason Wallace nailed his fourth shot from deep in a pivotal moment as the lead was stretched back to five points. The Wolverines would miss their next three open looks before Howard nailed one from deep, the final basket of the game. Michigan would lose in London, 73-69.
It was the second time in the past week that the Wolverines squandered an opportunity to beat a top-25 opponent. Kentucky shot 60 percent from behind the arc and 46.6 percent from the field. 12 offensive rebounds gave the Wildcats too many opportunities to continue to put the ball in the basket. Tschiebwe would finish with 13 points and 14 rebounds on 50 percent shooting. Dickinson was just as good shooting 10-for-22 from the field scoring 23 points and nine rebounds.
Overall, it was another strong showing for a young Michigan squad, but they need to start finishing in games like these if they want to be dancing in March.