The Michigan Wolverines picked up their first Big Ten loss of the season in a rivalry game Saturday afternoon, losing to MSU, 59-53 at the Breslin Center.
The Wolverines made a second-half surge to cut the lead to single digits, but ultimately shot too poorly and didn’t execute well enough on offense to complete the comeback.
“It hurts because it felt like this was the one, man,” Dickinson said after the game. “When we brought it down to six and they called that timeout, everything was clicking for us. When you get yourself down 14 points in the second half against a really good team, a well-coached team, it’s hard to get back into the game, and we did that. When you’re trying to get back in the game, you can’t afford to make any mistakes and we just had a couple too many.”
Those execution issues can partially be attributed to foul trouble, as Dug McDaniel and Jett Howard sat for a large stretch at the end of the first, forcing two of Michigan’s primary ball-handlers to sit on the bench.
“That played a big part, in my opinion,” Howard said. “I’m not supposed to get stupid. ticky-tack fouls, same with Dug. We just got to be smarter. That was unfortunate for sure.”
Kobe Bufkin picked up a lot of those ball-handling duties and had to play point guard quite a bit in that first half. He said after the game he felt good in that role, he just wants to get a little better at getting guys involved and staying patient in the half-court.
“Obviously when you lose two high-minute guys, it kind of affects the way the game goes,” Bufkin said. “(As the point guard), I feel pretty comfortable. I got to look at film and make better reads but overall, I feel pretty comfortable.
“We could have swung the ball a little more in the first half than we did, part of that comes with me figuring out the reads and stuff like that, but we’ll get better at it for sure.”
Michigan also shot the ball poorly; the Wolverines only made 34.5% of their shots and 15% of their threes. That’s what happens in a tough environment, but they seem confident they’ll bounce back.
“That’s just something that happens in the game of basketball,” Bufkin said. “The past few games, we shot it pretty well. the basketball gods are eventually going to humble you at some point. I feel like they humbled us today.”
Any college basketball player will tell you making shots on the road is much harder than being in the home arena you’re comfortable in. Head coach Juwan Howard said that playing in a hectic place like East Lansing is great experience for this young team.
“It’s great for guys to go out there and get their feet wet and compete at the Breslin; this is one of the best environments in college basketball,” he said. “Kobe had to play the point guard position, logged a lot of minutes in the first half. It’s going to be that way sometimes.”
Hunter Dickinson, who led the team with 18 points and has played in a lot of big games like this, wasn’t bothered much by the crowd noise and stressed that he loves playing in close rivalry games like this.
“I was expecting a little bit more, to be honest,” Dickinson said on the crowd noise. “It was pretty fun, I’m glad that they came out here and made it a fun game for us. Obviously they had the crowd behind them and that helped them a lot. That showed in our slow start to the game.”
Jett Howard pushed back when asked if this was the toughest environment that he’s played in. He thought playing the UNC game in Charlotte was a little tougher, but he did think Michigan didn’t do a great job responding when MSU took the lead.
“I don’t think the crowd played much of a part,” Jett said. “We didn’t really pay attention much to that, we didn’t react the right way when some adversity hit. At the end of the day, they’re a good team, I’ll give them their props, but we should have done better than we did today.”