Hunter Dickinson hit what felt like the most important shot of his Michigan career on Sunday, helping to keep the Wolverines’ tournament hopes alive by forcing overtime and helping beat the Wisconsin Badgers, 87-79.
In those final seconds, Michigan’s All-American big man was as confident as he always is.
“Of course I knew it was going in,” Dickinson said with a chuckle. “I practice that shot all the time, man.”
The play did not go according to plan, as it was initially drawn up for Michigan’s lone senior. When asked about the final play, Juwan Howard was complimentary of Dickinson’s AAU teammate who gave him the ball.
“I drew up a play where Joey (Baker) would be the first option and Hunter would be the second option,” Howard said. “Terrance Williams — what a hell of a pass. To be able to, with guys draping all over him, to deliver it on time and on target — amazing shot that he made. We needed those.”
The most frustrating portion of watching this team is how they haven’t been able to consistently finish in close games. Howard has clearly been frustrated with that, acknowledging that’s been an issue all season long and credited his team for staying focused.
“We’re owed that, we’ve been through a lot of pain down the stretch from early on in the season with some of the games we’ve lost,” Howard said. “It was nice that our guys dug down deep and stayed the course to be able to get this really, hard-fought victory today.”l
“Those young men in that locker room, they deserve all the credit. With all the adversity they’ve been through, whether it’s with injuries, being a young team, being counted out, having some hard losses, winning some games and having a little inconsistency — the trust has been real from top to bottom. I really commend not just the players, but the staff for being dialed in, bought in and staying connected.”
The Wolverines were able to win this close game because of how well they played in overtime, going on a 10-0 run and locking down the Badgers when it mattered most.
“Our guys guarded really well in overtime,” Dickinson said. “Guys really stepped up and got stops when we needed to. That was the story of the game, getting stops when we needed to.”
Howard also got emotional, saying he’s learned a lot from the young big man in his three seasons coaching him.
“I am all in with Hunter, I support him,” Howard said. “I know where his heart is. He wants the attention, he wants the attention to be away from his teammates, his coaches, give it to him so he can be the bad guy. It’s unfair because Hunter, he’s really a lovable person. He really is. I love coaching him, I love being around him. I’ve learned a lot from him, he’s my family.”
When asked if it ever crossed his mind that this could be his final home game at Michigan, Dickinson paused before giving what seemed like a pretty honest answer.
“I don’t think so,” Dickinson said. “I don’t have a crystal 8-ball, but if it was, it was a damn good way to end it.”
The Wolverines are 17-12 overall and 11-7 in Big Ten play. Most bracket forecasters have them on the outside looking in, as they have some tough road tests ahead against Illinois and Indiana to close out the year.
But with a big man as good as Dickinson — and a young team that seems to be clicking at the perfect time — you can’t rule out some madness happening next month.
“If we lost that game, it would have been really tough for us,” Dickinson said when asked if that was a season-saving shot. “But we’re not done yet.”