WASHINGTON D.C. — When you look at the score, it’s a blowout.
A 77-49 thrashing of Prairie View A&M (0-3) by the No. 6 Michigan men’s basketball team (2-0) that, quite frankly, wasn’t ever close. The Wolverines were far better at every level of the game. Shooting, passing, defending — you name it.
But the game wasn’t played for the numbers in the box score. Both sides knew that Michigan was the better team, and so did everyone else. For some perspective, the Wolverines sit at second in the KenPom rankings. The Jaguars? 224th.
So what on earth were either team thinking, traveling across the country to meet in Washington D.C. for a neutral site game that was an inevitable blowout? Put simply, they wanted to make a statement:
HBCUs, which typically lack the resources that larger schools have, are often overlooked by professional talent scouts and people at large. These schools, like Prairie View A&M, and their players deserve to be seen and recognized. And through this, the organization of Coaches vs Racism hopes to make strides to end systemic racism in sports.
“I feel like something needs to kind of come to the plate and push more HBCUs into (the) spotlight and the HBCU players,” Jaguar guard Jawaun Daniels said.
This sentiment holds true in the Wolverines’ minds as well.
“Our guys are very attuned to what’s happening with the climate,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “And they also understand that this game wasn’t just a game where, some say a buy-in game. No, it’s for a great cause.”
And for both teams to fulfill that cause, it required them to respect their opponent and play hard through every whistle.
That started right at tip off. On the first play of the game, towering sophomore center Hunter Dickinson reached up far above what a single Jaguar could reach for a putback that gave the Wolverines the first points of the game. He followed that by draining a three on the next possession, then dunked hard in the paint, scoring Michigan’s first seven points.
Dickinson didn’t let up, and neither did the Wolverines. The points kept coming, including a pair of threes from freshman wing Caleb Houstan, two buckets in the paint, a pair of free throws for freshman big man Moussa Diabate and more. Michigan stretched its lead to 28-9, tied for the largest it held in the first half.
But while the Wolverines piled it on, Prairie View A&M showed its own flashes. Jaguar guard Jawaun Daniels ran the floor before slamming it through the basket on a fast break, then went on to hit a heavily contested jumper on the next possession.
“They all played hard,” director of Coaches vs Racism Darryl Woods said. “They didn’t take anything for granted. And as a former student athlete, you could see it. You could see it and you can tell they were out there competing.”
Opening the second half with a score of 42-23, neither team let the scoreboard dictate their effort. Houstan and fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks came out firing, both netting two 3-pointers apiece before the 15 minute mark.
Jaguar guard Jeremiah Gambrell Jr. answered, pushing the pace to convert an and-one basket with its subsequent free throw. Only a minute later, he knocked down a step-back three in the face of Brooks. The sides traded blows for the remainder of the half, the Wolverine lead slowly growing.
In the event’s waning minutes, Prairie View A&M brought fans of both teams to their feet with a duo of electrifying dunks. The deliverer of one of said dunks, Jaguar guard Will Douglas, caught fire, scoring six points in under a minute and a half.
While Prairie View A&M still couldn’t make it close, that didn’t matter. Players like Gambrell and Douglas got to show what they could do. And this time, a national audience was able to view it.
That’s what it’s about.
After the event, Woods said it best:
“It’s more than just a game.”