Michigan basketball celebrated New Year’s Eve in style.
The 15th-ranked Wolverines powered their way to an impressive 84-73 win at Maryland, staying undefeated and remaining atop the Big Ten standings.
U-M looked prepared from the opening tip, scoring 46 points in the first half before pulling away in the second half with a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 10 with 8:39 remaining. The Wolverines eventually stretched their lead to as much as 19 and closed out their third conference game comfortably.
Freshman center Hunter Dickinson continued his torrid start, leading all scorers with a career-high 26 points on 10-for-11 shooting with 11 rebounds. Franz Wagner added 19 points, and Mike Smith scored 16.
Dickinson’s impressive homecoming
Dickinson, who attended DeMatha Catholic in Maryland and is from the D.C. area, told reporters this week he felt somewhat disrespected when Maryland did not recruit him heavily. It was clear that Dickinson carried that grudge into Thursday’s contest: In the first half, he stared down the Terrapins’ bench as he ran down the court after scoring. Eventually, Dickinson was called for a technical foul — he calmed down, but he did not cool down.
The freshman center looked like the best player on the floor at times, especially on on offense. He shot 90.9% from the field, made six of his seven free throws and grabbed four offensive rebounds. Dickinson’s size proved too much to handle as he was repeatedly able to establish down low and score.
Smith, Wagner provide backup
It wasn’t all Dickinson. Michigan also got standout performances from Wagner and Smith, whose 16 points were a season high. He also had six rebounds and a team-high six assists.
Wagner was averaging less than seven attempts and 10 points through his first six games, but the sophomore has been more assertive against the Cornhuskers and Terrapins in the past week. He scored 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting at Nebraska on Christmas Day and was similarly aggressive at Maryland, scoring 10 points in the opening half. Wagner has upped his playmaking skills; he had four assists Thursday, including a crucial wrap-around pass to Dickinson that led to an and-1. He also made three of his six 3s, an encouraging sign for Michigan considering he was averaging 26.3% on 3-pointers entering the contest.
Smith, meanwhile, has been one of the best Wolverines over the past couple games. He is not the primary option — as he was for Columbia last season — but his role suits him fine: He can pick his spots as a scorer — as he did Thursday when he hit a couple tough jumpers, including a long step-back 2 —while also distributing. He finishing Thursday with 16 points and six assists. And despite being the smallest player on the floor in College Park — he is listed generously at 5-foot-11 — Smith had six rebounds against the Terrapins.
Small ball works for Maryland
Offensively, Michigan’s first half was one of its best of the season. The Wolverines got open looks whenever they wanted and averaged 1.3 points per possession. Michigan got to the free throw line made 15 of 16 attempts, with nearly every player in the rotation getting on the stat sheet. It was a crisp performance that, in most games, would’ve led to a comfortable lead.
But Maryland did not back down. The Terrapins, who upset Wisconsin on the road Monday, trailed by as much as 10 in the first half but chipped away at the lead with nine 3-pointers (on 11 attempts) in the first half. That high percentage was less the result of sharp shooting, and more the result of open shots generated by Maryland’s small-ball lineup. The approach spread the floor and proved to be a good answer to Michigan’s offense (and the size of center Hunter Dickinson). It was enough to keep Michigan’s lead at two at the half, despite the Wolverines’ own efficient scoring.