Michigan beat Wisconsin 87-79 on Sunday afternoon
The Michigan Wolverines needed a miracle.
Trailing the Wisconsin Badgers 68-65 with just 2.1 seconds on the clock, Michigan was facing a difficult inbound pass from the corner of their baseline. And they had no timeouts.
Terrance Williams lofted the ball beyond the three-point line, and Hunter Dickinson used every bit of his 7-foot-3 wingspan — and possibly a forearm shiver — to corral it. He then turned and fired an off-balance prayer from 28 feet.
That will be the shot people remember. But this was a tremendously entertaining back-and-forth affair between two teams desperately trying to claw their way off the NCAA tournament bubble. It scarcely resembled the ugly rock fight these squads participated in just 12 days earlier.
Late in the second half it appeared the Wolverines were going to drop yet another close game, and Badgers guard Max Klesmit was poised to be the hero. The junior banked in a three with just under two minutes to play to give Wisconsin a 64-61 lead, and then he blocked the potential go-ahead layup from Kobe Bufkin with 11 seconds remaining.
Sophomore guard Kamari McGee then sank two free throws to put Wisconsin up three. The Badgers chose not to foul, and that looked like a sound decision after Klesmit blocked Bufkin’s game-tying three-point attempt. But the block went out of bounds, and next came the Dickinson Miracle.
The Michigan Wolverines are now 17-12 on the season, and tied for second in the Big Ten with an 11-7 conference record. They finish their season with road games at Illinois on Thursday, and at Indiana on Sunday. They likely need to win at least one of those contests to make the NCAA Tournament.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game:
Youth is Served
It was Senior Day at the Crisler Center, but the best performances on Sunday came from the youngest players on the floor. Wisconsin freshman Connor Essegian grew up a Michigan fan, but he led the Badgers with 24 points on Sunday. He frequently shook loose from Wolverines defenders, and hit a jumper with 25 seconds left in regulation to put Wisconsin up 66-65.
Not to be outdone, Michigan’s youngest player Kobe Bufkin led all scorers with a career-high 28 points. Bufkin chipped in eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals, and he also put the Wolverines up for good in overtime with an and-one layup.
And then there’s Michigan freshman point guard Dug McDaniel, who continued his late-season surge. He didn’t record an assist on Sunday, but he also set a career-high with 20 points, including eight in overtime.
Dickinson Comes, Dickinson Goes
Dickinson’s shot wasn’t his only contribution during the game. But, as with most of his season, the junior big man was frustratingly inconsistent. He was seemingly absent for the first 12 minutes of the game before picking up an offensive foul with Wisconsin leading 20-16. Then he dominated the rest of the half, pouring in 10 points and adding four rebounds and two assists to help Michigan to a 35-27 halftime lead.
Then he disappeared again. Dickinson took just three shots in the first 17 minutes of the second half. But he reappeared when Michigan needed him the most, grabbing a huge offensive rebound, and scoring seven of Michigan’s final nine points of the half. In the end he finished with a terrific all-around game, scoring 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, with ten rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal.
Goodbye Baker…and Jett and Kobe?
It was an unusually small senior class for Michigan this year, with only grad transfer Joey Baker being feted before the game. Baker didn’t have a particularly good game, finishing just 2-for-8 from the field for nine points. But his two made three-pointers both came at opportune times, and he sank two big free throws in the second half.
But Baker probably wasn’t the only Michigan Wolverine playing his final home game in Ann Arbor. Freshman wing Jett Howard didn’t play at all on Sunday with a sprained ankle, but he’s a projected lottery pick. His status as the coach’s son may keep him at school, but turning down lottery money seems unwise. And then there’s Bufkin, whose late-season emergence has not gone unnoticed by NBA scouts. Next year’s Wolverines may look very different.
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports