The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions, 58-57, late Tuesday night in what can only be described as an ugly slugfest. Both teams struggled mightily to shoot the ball from everywhere but the free throw line.
Luckily for Michigan, the calm, cool and collected presence of Eli Brooks at the free throw line allowed the Wolverines to escape with a win. He went 4-of-4 at the charity stripe in the last nine seconds of the game to ice the win for the Wolverines.
Juwan Howard acknowledged Brooks in his post game press conference.
“The guy is selfless in so many ways,” Howard said. “He’s smart. He’s a competitor. His teammates trust him. He’s one of the best leaders that I’ve been around, and I’ve been around sports for a very long time.”
It would have been remiss for Howard not to talk about the play of Hunter Dickinson as well. The big man tallied 19 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and two assists.
“Hunter has been the anchor for us, not just this season but last season as well,” Howard said. “Hunter has also done an amazing job of transforming and reinventing himself, his overall game. Not just showing the world that he’s an inside scorer, but he can play inside and outside. Hunter’s a competitor. He gets animated. He gets into it when the crowd gets on him. He loves to feed off their energy.”
The Wolverines struggled to defend the paint in the first half, giving up 18 points in the paint in that half alone. Specifically, the guards struggled to stay in front of Penn State’s quick guards on the perimeter. When asked about what changed in the second half, Howard recalled his halftime conversation with the team.
“I talked at halftime that it’s too easy. Everything they’re getting is too easy. We have to make them work for every bucket, that they don’t feel us. We have to cut off the paint touches. Looking at the second half, we did a really good job of keeping our man in front. When they did touch the paint, we limited them to one-shot opportunities because our guys did a really good job of boxing out. Our activity, energy and communication was very solid in the second half.”
Michigan has quietly won five of its last seven contests, albeit in mostly ugly fashion. The Wolverines have a quick turnaround as the Purdue Boilermakers travel to Ann Arbor for a Thursday night tilt at 9 p.m. on ESPN.