The Michigan Wolverines got a win when they needed it most Thursday night, beating the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road, 84-79.
Iowa is a very talented offensive team, but Michigan was able to keep up with them thanks to solid ball movement, capitalizing on turnovers and a few standout freshman performances.
This was a much needed win for a Michigan team that could use a few more big wins to secure their spot in the NCAA tournament, being that they are ranked as one of the last four teams in in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology. If they can remain sound defensively and continue to score like this, the Wolverines just might earn themselves a spot in the Big Dance.
Here are a few takeaways from the win.
Diabate was dominant
If I would have told you before the game the last points Hunter Dickinson scored would come with 10:43 left in the second half, you would have thought Michigan lost by double-digits.
Dickinson had a fine game (14 points, nine rebounds) and did a great job passing out of double teams for a season-high seven assists, but the big man leading the way for the Wolverines was Moussa Diabate.
Scoring a career-high 28 points, Diabate did a great job establishing position in the paint to finish in traffic and capitalizing in transition while being tenacious on the boards (eight rebounds). His constant scoring was a big reason why Michigan was able to dictate the pace of this game, as the Wolverines got out and ran in this one, with Diabate making the most of Iowa turnovers.
It was amazing to see him play with the confidence he was playing with once a few shots fell for him. In a game with prolific offensive players like Dickinson, Keegan Murray, Eli Brooks and Jordan Bohannon, he was the one who took the game over.
.@M0ussaDiabate is unstoppable tonight .— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 18, 2022
New career high of 26 pts.
CC: @umichbball pic.twitter.com/97uN8M4CBi
While he’s struggled to get a rhythm going offensively at times this year, this game proved why he can eventually be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft: he’s an inside-out forward who has a great midrange stroke, good defensive instincts and a burning desire to get boards.
Michigan fans should pray he returns for his sophomore season because he has a chance to be their best player.
Michigan controlled the pace of the game
The Hawkeyes are one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten, but they couldn’t get much of a rhythm going until their run at the end because Michigan wouldn’t let go of the momentum.
More than a few of Iowa’s turnovers were not forced, but regardless, Michigan did a great job capitalizing on turnovers for easy baskets.
Brooks (13 points, five assists) and DeVante’ Jones (11 points, game-high 10 rebounds, five assists) did a great job pushing the ball in transition to keep the good times rolling for the Wolverines.
With an offense that has been far from reliable this season, the Wolverines should do everything in their power to keep the pace up in these games down the stretch to give themselves easy buckets.
Michigan survived a scare with that late Iowa run, but they were able to dictate this game’s momentum by turning it into a track meet.
Bufkin makes an impact off the bench
As I touched on after the Ohio State loss, there have been way too many times this season where Michigan’s bench failed to show up when the Wolverines needed them most. It looked like it was going to be another lackluster night from the bench in this one, as Brandon Johns Jr. and Frankie Collins didn’t look great in their short spurts.
But freshman Kobe Bufkin made a huge impact, scoring 10 points off the bench and providing Michigan with another good ball handler to handle Iowa’s occasional 3/4 court pressure.
Bufkin has struggled to get his footing all year long, mostly only playing in 2-3 minute bursts to relieve the starting guards. He earned some valuable time Thursday, scoring eight key points in that first half and providing Michigan with good on-ball defense in the second half.
It should be fun to see what he can do with what will likely be a more expanded role next season.
Michigan needs a few more big wins in conference, and could use a little run in the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines have six games left this season, with the next one coming on the road against Wisconsin this Sunday.
Capping off this week with another win would be huge for the Wolverines. With games against a red-hot Rutgers team and rematches against Illinois, Ohio State, MSU and Iowa on the horizon, Michigan has a few more chances to improve its resume.