After losing on the road in back-to-back games, the Michigan Wolverines picked up a much-needed win against Northwestern on Sunday afternoon, 85-78.
This is not the Northwestern team that finished near the bottom of the Big Ten the majority of the 2010s; this is a solid, senior-heavy team that have road wins over MSU and Indiana. After a lackadasicial end to the first half, the young Wolverines had a solid second half to secure the victory.
Here are some takeaways from the game.
Duggy McBuckets has a new career-high
McDaniel had one of his best games of the year, scoring a career-high 17 points and getting some key stops late.
McDaniel also contributed five assists, made all four of his free throws, and went 3-for-7 from behind the arc.
With Jaelin Llewellyn out for the year, McDaniel was thrust into the starting lineup and finally looks comfortable. Performances like this have to be a confidence booster for the young point guard.
The two-big lineup is here to stay
In the loss to Iowa Thursday, we saw the Wolverines play Hunter Dickinson and Tarris Reed Jr. share the floor for the first time.
As soon as they played together against Northwestern, the Wolverines went on a crucial 8-0 run that helped the lead climb to seven, which ended up being the difference.
The energy Reed Jr. plays with on defense is contagious. The Wolverines weren’t rebounding well for the majority of this game, but both big men grabbed an offensive rebound in that run and commanded the paint.
Dickinson clearly seemed frustrated with being doubled all game long, but he showcased his great court vision, finishing with three assists.
Associate head coach Phil Martelli said on Saturday we’ll be seeing more of that lineup in certain situations. With how well the two big men played together in this one, that lineup might be something we see every game now.
Kobe Bufkin has become a reliable piece
Bufkin led the Wolverines in scoring in this one, finishing with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Dickinson is Michigan’s best player, and Jett Howard (16 points, team-high seven assists) has the highest NBA draft stock, but as of late Bufkin has been the most consistent Wolverine and has been crucial in Big Ten play.
Energy off the bench, especially in the second half
Northwestern dominated the middle portion of the game, looking like the better team at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half.
Things shifted when Will Tschetter checked into the game. He didn’t light up the box score (four points, two rebounds, four fouls in 10 minutes), but he gave Michigan a jolt of energy and helped contribute to winning basketball.
Reed Jr. brought that energy, too, and Joey Baker (seven points) provided solid contributions in both halves.
Michigan doesn’t have the deepest bench, but those three guys combined to score 17 points in this one. Getting valuable bench contributions like that is crucial for Michigan in these conference games.
Hot start offensively erased by sloppy play in the first half
That first half was a perfect encapsulation of why Michigan has been so frustrating to watch this season.
The Wolverines got off to a hot start, as they made four of their first five three-pointers and jumped out to an 18-6 lead within the first six game minutes. The offense was running like a well-oiled machine, with the Wolverines moving the ball well and getting good looks while Northwestern started off cold.
Things started to turn towards the 11:15 mark when Michigan was up, 18-8. Northwestern proceeded to outscore Michigan 31-19 after that.
Northwestern was thriving with a small lineup while doubling Dickinson every time he caught the ball in the post. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Michigan played some sloppy basketball (nine turnovers in the first half, including six turnovers over a seven-possession stretch) and had some poor shot selection, especially when Dickinson was off the floor.
This team can look so good in stretches; in the first few minutes, this had all the makings to be a Maryland-esque blowout. Part of the reason why this team has lost seven games this season is because those stretches don’t come often enough for this inconsistent squad.
They corrected things in the second half in this one, but Michigan needs to take care of the basketball better moving forward.
Every game in the Big Ten can be tough, but if there’s any week for Michigan to figure things out, it’s this one. Michigan travels to Maryland on Jan. 19 before a home game with Minnesota on Jan. 22.
Hopefully Michigan uses this week to keep tinkering with the rotation and give guys like Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes more minutes to boost their confidence.