The Michigan Wolverines fell to #3 Virginia 70-68.
For 20 minutes the Michigan Wolverines basketball team looked like a title contender. And for 38 minutes they looked like they might earn a signature win over the third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. But college basketball games are 40 minutes long. And Virginia proved to be the more balanced, more disciplined team in a thrilling 70-68 win at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Michigan’s All-American center Hunter Dickinson led all scorers with 23 points, and he tied a career high with five blocks on the defensive end. But the Cavs had five different players reach double digits in scoring. And they held Michigan just just 39% shooting on 18 field goal attempts in the second half to eek out the victory.
The game started slowly for Michigan, with the Wolverines beginning 1-for-6 from the floor. Meanwhile, Virginia made their first four shots to take an early 9-2 lead.
But then the game turned into an unexpected track meet. Dickinson and Jett Howard led a furious rally that saw Michigan make 18 of 25 shots. That including a stretch of going 7-for-12 from three, and UM took a 45-34 lead into halftime.
Michigan cools off in the second half
The first half ended with a Kobe Bufkin steal and layup, and the second half began with a Jett Howard block. Things seemed to be looking up for Michigan. But then Virginia’s signature defense arrived, and they outscored Michigan 14-5 to begin the second half.
From there the game was a tense, back-and-forth affair. Just as it looked like Virginia would tie the game, Michigan’s defense stepped up to the task. Bufkin and Dickinson both forced stops, and Michigan’s lead grew to six.
But when Howard and Dickinson left the floor, Michigan had no answers. The Wolverines scored with 11 minutes to go, and then missed two shots, and committed three consecutive turnovers, including two charging fouls. Virginia tied the game with a pair of free throws at the 8:09 mark.
Virginia surged to a 5-point lead on a Ben Vander Plas three with 5:16 remaining. But Michigan fought back.
They tied it again with 3:30 left when Dickinson tapped in his own miss. Dickinson then followed up on the defensive end with what can only be described as a murderous thunderblock. It took the teams into the under-4 timeout tied at 65.
The Dickinson Factor
Dickinson’s gravity was a huge factor in the game, as he drew at least eight fouls, and scored in double digits in both halves. But Jett Howard made just two shots in the second half, and Michigan couldn’t find a viable third option.
Virginia’s 5th-year senior forward Jayden Gardner made a 17-footer to give the Cavs a 67-66 lead with 39 seconds remaining. They wouldn’t relinquish the lead again.
Michigan guard Jaelin Llewellyn committed a huge turnover with just 16 seconds remaining, and Jett Howard was forced to foul to prevent an easy layup. That gave UVA two free throws and the ball.
A late layup from Dickinson and two missed free throws from Armaan Franklin meant UM had a chance to tie or win at the buzzer. But Virginia’s stifling defense prevailed again. Michigan fans cried for a foul, but Virginia’s defense was sound, and Howard couldn’t even get off a clean shot.
The Wolverines are now 5-2 on the season and face a tough schedule that includes and matchup against #19 Kentucky this Sunday in London. They’ll need to find a consistent third scorer and put forth a more cohesive defensive effort the beat the Wildcats.