After struggling to finish close games all year long, Michigan hit shots when it mattered and won a game against MSU that was close until the end, 84-72.
This was the first game the Michigan State men’s basketball has played since the tragic school shooting. Michigan did a number of things to pay tribute to the victims, including a moment of silence before the game where Crisler Center was lit green and white, special warm-up uniforms, and the U-M band learning and performing MSU’s alma mater.
Michigan’s tournament chances are still slim thanks to its failures in close games all year, but picking up a win against a rival is a huge confidence boost.
Here are the takeaways from the win.
That’s a hell of a way to finish a close game
It’s no secret the Wolverines have had issues closing games all season long, but they played their best basketball late in this one.
That wasn’t an issue against MSU; Michigan took the lead, 69-67, just before the final media timeout. From that point forward, it went on a 15-5 run and ended up winning by double-digits.
Back-to-back threes by Kobe Bufkin and Hunter Dickinson forced Tom Izzo to call a timeout with 1:08 as the Crisler Center was roaring. Just listen to that crowd.
Hunter Dickinson, professional WWE villainpic.twitter.com/KX3VaBEty9— Brandon Koretz (@BrandonKoretz) February 19, 2023
It’s a little late in the season for Michigan to start making shots in crunch time, but at least it did it and picked up a big win.
Tarris Reed Jr. had some clutch moments
We talk about energy a lot when it comes to bench players, and Tarris Reed Jr. brought that on Saturday. He rebounded the ball so well, helping give Michigan extra possessions when it struggled offensively.
You could tell the Wolverines were feeding off his energy.
The Kobe Bufkin and Hunter Dickinson clutch shots deserve the praise they’ll undoubtedly get. But make no mistake about it. This is the Tarris Reed Game.— Scott Bell (@sbell021) February 19, 2023
Reed Jr. finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds, almost as many as the Spartans had all night (6).
The freshman big man giving Michigan those extra possessions and finishing them at the rim was one of the biggest reasons the Wolverines won this game.
A solid game for Duggy McBuckets
In their first matchup in East Lansing, Dug McDaniel didn’t have his best game — in fact, he had zero points— but a big reason for that was he was a battling a sickness. He was in the hospital the day of the game before meeting up with the team before tip-off.
The freshman point guard had a solid game in this one, scoring 18 points, including 11 in the first half. He came out on FIRE.
As is usually the case for freshman guards, McDaniel has had some solid moments, but he hasn’t been the most consistent. Performances like this in rivalry games are certainly encouraging for the talented young ball handler.
Waaaaay too many easy baskets
Both teams shot the ball well to start, combining for 12-of-17 from the field in the opening five minutes. MSU shot the ball especially well in the first half, making 53.3% of its shots.
A lot of those shots came at or near the rim, with the Spartans scoring 18 points in the paint in the first half and 34 in the game (four more than the Wolverines). Tom Izzo teams almost always excel in transition, and this team is no different.
Granted, Michigan was down a power forward, but Tarris Reed Jr. and Will Tschetter looked real bad on defense for stretches. You can’t allow your opponent to score that many easy buckets.
Michigan struggled as a team defensively all night long, which has been the case for the majority of the season.
Jett Howard injury
After hitting a mid-range jumper in that second half, Jett Howard came down awkward and hobbled off the court. It appeared he hurt his right ankle; he missed time last month after injuring the other ankle.
He never returned after leaving the floor mid-way through the second half. We’re hoping for the best for him, as Michigan needs his offense to close out the season.
Honoring one of the best teams in program history
At halftime, former head coach John Beilein and several members of the 2012-13 team — including Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrcecht — were honored for their magical run to the National Championship.
It feels crazy that run is 10 years old now. That’s my favorite Michigan team in my lifetime, and I’m sure I’m not the only 20-something that feels that way.
Every game is a must-win for the Wolverines this week, and they have a chance to pick up two more Big Ten wins this week, including a potential Quad 1 win.
The Wolverines travel to Piscataway to take on Rutgers (No. 29 in NET rankings as of Saturday night) on Thursday, Feb. 23 before returning home for a rematch with Wisconsin three days later.