BLOOMINGTON — Capitalizing on momentum has been a difficult task for the Michigan men’s basketball team all season.
On the heels of a blowout win against Maryland, the Wolverines looked to finally build some by going on the road and defeating an upstart Hoosiers team to grab their first quadrant one win.
Michigan (9-7 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) did just that, defeating Indiana (14-5, 5-4), 80-62, on Sunday afternoon. Showing a gusto on both ends of the floor that it had lacked most of the year, the Wolverines got off to a hot start in both halves to fuel the victory.
“We were trying to build momentum because we needed it, especially coming into this stretch,” sophomore center Hunter Dickinson said. “We knew that the stretch coming up was very important for us. We were playing for our season.”
Michigan came out playing like its life was on the line and blitzed Indiana in the early going thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers.
A shot that has been a point of weakness for the Wolverines most of the season suddenly became its biggest weapon. Indiana collapsed towards the paint to try and stop interior looks, leaving shooters wide open on the perimeter. Michigan started the game 5-of-6 from deep, including two from freshman forward Caleb Houstan, who had made three from deep against the Terrapins after just two in his previous five games. The offense was getting every look it wanted and raced out to a 29-13 lead.
“I think guys are just finally hitting shots that weren’t going in the beginning of the season,” Dickinson said. “I think (those were) shots that we were hitting last year that led to our success and it’s carrying over now to wins for us this year.”
Indiana, on the other hand, had been especially lackluster from the 3-point line, shooting just 34.3% on the year — and the Wolverines looked to take advantage. They often flashed a zone, but the Hoosiers could not take advantage of the open looks. Indiana went just 1-of-8 on 3-pointers in the half.
Late in the half, though, the Hooisers began to show some signs of life. They were persistent with their drives to the basket and back-to-back and-one makes from forward Trayce Jackson-Davis fueled a 9-0 run to cut into Michigan’s lead.
When the halftime buzzer sounded, the Wolverines led just 38-30. While the hot start had seemingly faded for most of the team, the saving grace for Michigan — surprisingly — was sophomore forward Terrance Williams II. Williams had shot just 3-of-12 over his last five games but went a perfect 4-for-4 from the field for 10 points and prevented Indiana from doing further damage.
“I just wanted to provide something off the bench along with my energy and effort,” Williams said. “Today that just so happened to be scoring.”
In the second half, the rest of the Wolverines’ lineup rediscovered its early mojo. Just under 90 seconds in, fifth year guard DeVante’ Jones laid in a bucket for the and-one off the fast break. Houstan splashed a three the next possession and the lead ballooned back up to 14.
“It’s great when you see the ball go through the net,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “It definitely builds confidence for the players and it also helps on the road and the ball goes to the net because it takes some of the energy out of the crowd.”
After a sporadic stretch over the next several minutes that saw both teams go cold from the field, Houstan was once again there to bail the Wolverines out. He drained a three from the left corner to make it a 58-45 ballgame with just under 11 minutes to play.
Houstan shot the ball with the confidence that had made him a highly touted shooter coming into the year, finishing with 19 points and going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. The team as a whole fed off this energy, shooting 11-for-17 from deep.
Every time Indiana made a basket to give the crowd life, Michigan responded to sit them back down. As time trickled down, the Wolverines nursed a double digit lead that had grown to 16 with six minutes to go. Dickinson led the way, making threes and drawing and-ones that garnered celebrations with continually growing enthusiasm.
“I think we had a few runs in the game,” Jackson-Davis said. “But every time we got close, they would pull away.”
With 1:15 to go, Houstan drained an elbow three, putting an emphatic exclamation point on a resounding road victory for Michigan that it dominated from the start.
“They’re getting better and better each and every game,” Howard said. “I just see that from what we have from the disposition at practice, I’m not surprised that our team played well today.”