It always feels good to beat the boys from Columbus, as the Michigan Wolverines beat the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday, 77-69.
This was the only regular season matchup between the two rivals this year, and both teams really needed this game for their postseason hopes. Ohio State’s season has been very similar to Michigan’s: it came in with a .500 record with a 3-8 record in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Momentum is important and after a great second half against Northwestern and a solid showing in this one, the Wolverines certainly have something to build off.
Here are some takeaways from the win.
A hot shooting start
The last few weeks, the Wolverines got into a bad habit of starting games slow. It happened in the Maryland and Penn State losses, and it happened in the wins over Minnesota and Northwestern.
They got off to a solid start in this one, making their first two threes and jumping out to a 12-6 lead at the first media timeout. Those fast starts seem crucial for the confidence of this young team.
They were solid offensively in that first half, especially with Hunter Dickinson making the Buckeyes pay in the paint and Kobe Bufkin getting to the rim.
A quick seven-minute run in less than two minutes about midway through the half helped jumpstart Michigan’s offense. Its first half lead eventually got to 11 points after this Jett Howard three.
The pick, the pass, the pull @umichbball is heating up pic.twitter.com/Wy1zrRdrJQ— CBS Sports College Basketball (@CBSSportsCBB) February 5, 2023
Michigan was moving the ball well (eight assists) and shot the three pretty well in the first half (5-of-13, 38.5%). The Wolverines clearly had a better flow going offensively, but their inconsistent defensive play kept the Buckeyes within a few buckets most of the half.
Hunter Dickinson was patient and put on a clinic in the post
Ohio State’s best big man, Zed Key, was in and out and seemed to be battling some shoulder pain, and the Wolverines took advantage.
Like an onion for a nice stew, Dickinson diced up freshman center Felix Okpara, who started in place of Key in the second half. He had eight points in the first seven minutes of the half, all off patient post moves. He finished the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds, with this win being the ninth time this season he’s scored more than 20 points.
With that rebound, Dickinson gets his 7th double-double of the season and 24th of his career (per the CBS broadcast)— Maize n Brew (@MaizenBrew) February 5, 2023
Two years ago, Dickinson only scored off rebounds, dump-down passes and hook shots over his right shoulder. Since then, he’s gotten much more patient in the post, he can score off hooks over either shoulder, he embraces physicality, and can knock down mid-range jumpers and threes at the top of the key.
His development offensively over the last few seasons has been remarkable. Props to him for putting in the work, and props to Juwan Howard for pushing him and helping him improve from a versatility standpoint.
This team’s most important player is Kobe Bufkin
Big-time players show up in big-time games, which is exactly what Bufkin has done.
Coming off his first collegiate double-double in the Northwestern win, Bufkin had another solid performance, racking up 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. It felt like everytime Ohio State got some momentum going in this one, Bufkin or Dickinson would score to squash that.
Kobe Bufkin this week:— Scott Bell (@sbell021) February 5, 2023
- 15-12-8 at Northwestern
- 13-8-5 vs. Ohio State
If he continues to be a viable and reliable third option down the stretch, watch out.
Dickinson is Michigan’s best player, and Howard — who had 16 points in this one — is a projected first round pick and probably has more NBA upside than anyone on the roster.
But there’s a case to be made Bufkin is Michigan’s most important player; he scores when Michigan needs a bucket much like Eli Brooks did last season, he plays great on-ball defense, and you can see him communicating and growing as a leader. When he plays well, the Wolverines win more often than not.
One of the big knocks you see Michigan fans on Twitter complain about when it comes to Juwan Howard is his lack of player development. Bufkin gets credit for putting in the work, but in terms of the size of the jump he’s made since last season, he is the biggest development win on Juwan’s resume.
Michigan is home the rest of the week and has a chance at two more conference wins. The Wolverines face Nebraska on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network) before hosting Indiana on Saturday (6 p.m. on ESPN).
The momentum surrounding this team is palpable. They still have a lot of work to do to make the tournament but after picking up wins against Northwestern and Ohio State, you can’t count the Wolverines out of postseason play quite yet.