The Michigan Wolverines improved to 3-0 in Big Ten Conference play Wednesday evening, defeating Penn State by double digits at home, 79-69.
Entering this game, Penn State was on a five-game winning streak, boasting an 11-3 (2-1) record. This is not your typical Nittany Lions team — they are solid and Michigan handled them tonight thanks to a well-rounded offensive attack, winning on the glass and solid effort on defense.
Here are some takeaways from the win.
A balanced scoring attack
Hunter Dickinson led Michigan with 17 points, but he wasn’t the only Wolverine who played well on that end.
Five players had six points or more in the first half, and four Wolverines ended up in double figures. Jett Howard (14 points) hit some big threes, Kobe Bufkin (14 points) continues to be Michigan’s most improved scorer and Dug McDaniel (12 points) poured in a few buckets of his own. McDaniel ran the offense well and made the biggest shot of his young Michigan career with a floater in the lane to give Michigan a 74-69 lead with a minute left.
Michigan also got solid contributions from its typical role players. Terrance Williams II (eight points) made some clutch threes and led the team with nine rebounds. Off the bench, Joey Baker cashed three three-pointers, and Tarris Reed Jr. had five points and took advantage of Penn State’s lack of size.
The Wolverines can beat a lot of team simply by relying on Dickinson, but when they are firing on all cylinders offensively, they are pretty hard to beat.
A game of runs
This was a game that saw both teams go on some lengthy runs, with the Wolverines coming out on top.
A 9-0 run in the first half helped Michigan jump out to a 16-8 lead. Penn State went on an 11-0 toward the beginning of the second half, but Michigan responded with a 14-0 run to get a 61-47 lead with 11:20 left.
After a Baker triple gave Michigan a 68-54 advantage, Penn State went on a 15-4 run to make it 72-69. The Nittany Lions had all the momentum late in the game, and Michigan missed enough free throws to help them hang around, but the Wolverines were able to hold for the victory.
This was a huge victory for a young team who has had trouble closing out games this season. Beating a quality, veteran team in Penn State that has all the momentum late in the game is not an easy task, but Michigan was up to the challenge.
Limiting turnovers was huge
Going into this game, Penn State took care of the basketball better than any team in college basketball. The Nittany Lions only turn the ball over 8.8 times per game, with Michigan not far behind at 9.6 (third in the country).
Michigan won the turnover battle in this one, as the Wolverines didn’t turn the ball over once in the first half and only had three in the second half. They did this while playing solid defense against the Nittany Lions, who turned the ball over eight times.
It’s pretty hard to lose when you play mistake-free basketball and move the ball well. It’s pretty fun to watch as well.
This is pretty basketball pic.twitter.com/pRVGN7GHU6— RoundBall Podcast (@roundballpod) January 5, 2023
After being inconsistent on the offensive end this season, this Michigan team deserves major props for how sound they were on offense tonight.
It’s officially time for the Wolverines to start preparing for one of their biggest rivals, as they travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State Saturday at 2:30 p.m. They also have matchups with Iowa and Northwestern in the next 15 days.
Michigan is in the perfect spot heading into this rivalry game. The Wolverines have clearly played much better since the CMU loss and the players-only meeting, and all their conference wins have now been by double-digits.
It’s not hyperbole to say Michigan is playing its best basketball of the season just in time for a date with Sparty.