Well it wasn’t pretty, but Michigan ultimately got the win at home against Minnesota, 60-54.
In a game where both teams combined to shoot just over 38%, Michigan ultimately made enough plays in the second half to secure the win.
Much like many Michigan victories this year, this was a game that could have been a double-digit win but ended up being way too close for comfort. Minnesota is at the bottom of the Big Ten standings with a 1-6 conference record, with its only win coming against Ohio State on Jan. 12. In the first match-up, Michigan beat them, 90-75, for the only true road win for the Wolverines this season.
Here are some takeaways from an ugly victory.
These slow starts HAVE to stop
All season long, and especially as of late, this team has gotten into the bad habit of starting games slow. It’s a big reason why Michigan lost last week at Maryland.
The Wolverines missed six of their first seven shots, settling for too many jumpers and falling into a 10-2 hole.
Thanks to a combination of feeding the post, improved defense and bad offensive execution from Minnesota — the Golden Gophers only scored three points in the final 10:16 of the half — the Wolverines were able to tie this one at the half.
You can’t expect every team to go on a drought like Minnesota did — the worst team in the Big Ten. If these slow starts continue, teams like Purdue and Rutgers will take advantage and Michigan can kiss any NCAA Tournament hopes goodbye.
Michigan took advantage of turnovers
Much like the NFL, winning the turnover battle in college basketball is a pretty big key to success. The Wolverines were able to pull away late in the second half because they were able to get points off turnovers.
They scored 20 points off turnovers in this one, turning good defense into easy offense. The Wolverines did a good enough job taking care of the ball, as they have all year. Having only 10 turnovers — including only four in the second half — was a huge reason Michigan came out victorious.
Good things happen when you feed the post
Much like the rest of the team, Hunter Dickinson got off to a slow start. After turning the ball over a few times and settling for some jumpers, Dickinson went to the bench for five minutes.
He was a big reason why this team was able to climb back into the game, as he embraced physicality and took advantage of his size. Michigan fed him the ball in the post and he looked like his dominant self, scoring eight points in the first half and 23 points overall.
Dickinson has improved his jumper and has good enough court vision to survive outside the paint, but Michigan needs to keep feeding him the ball to score reliably.
Tarris Reed Jr. and Will Tschetter continue to make an impact
These two young guys continue to bring a spark off the bench and if they keep doing it, we’re going to have to come up with some sort of nickname for them. Perhaps…Big Cheese? We’ll work on that part.
Both came in for about 15 minutes and combined to score eight points.
Reed Jr. made his presence felt all over the floor, grabbing five boards, recording a block and a steal and playing some high-quality defense in the second half.
Tschetter, yet again, brought some energy by scoring on a nice spin move at the basket and drawing a few key fouls. He said on Saturday he’s getting more confident in his role. He also made two technical free throws late and was on the floor in the final few minutes of the game, which has to be a huge confidence boost for him.
Michigan struggled to get reliable bench contributions early in the year, but both these young players are really starting to come into their own and make an impact.
Jett Howard leaves with an injury
With about two minutes left in the first half, Howard came down awkwardly and seemed to be in a lot of pain. On the replay on the broadcast, it looked like he rolled his left ankle pretty bad.
The injury was bad enough he didn’t return in the second half; he remained on the bench with a boot. Hopefully it’s not too serious, as Howard is Michigan’s second-leading scorer and has been projected to be picked in the first round of the NBA Draft in some early mocks.
We’ll keep you updated about his health status as we learn more.
Michigan’s next four games are crucial for their tournament resume. As of Jan. 22, all four of those games would be Quad 1 wins if the Wolverines can earn a few victories.
They have a tough home test on Thursday, Jan. 26, against No. 3 Purdue. After that, they travel for rematches with Penn State (Jan. 29) and Northwestern (Feb. 2) before returning home to take on Ohio State (Feb. 5).