Oftentimes in practice, the Michigan men’s basketball team plays exhibitions between its first and second units. Normally, the result is exactly what you’d expect it to be.

“We may beat them a few times but most of the time (the starters are) beating up on us,” senior forward Chaundee Brown said.

In Sunday’s 80-58 victory over Central Florida, though, the second unit proved to be the most productive players on the floor for the Wolverines. Trailing by 12 points midway through the first half, Michigan coach Juwan Howard subbed in freshman forward Terrance Williams to join junior forward Brandon Johns Jr. and freshman center Hunter Dickinson in the frontcourt. The Wolverines needed a spark, and they delivered. 

“Soon as I came in on the floor, (Johns) talked to me, he was like, ‘Be a dog, bring energy, do what you do,’ ” Williams said, after finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. “And that instilled a lot of confidence with me because he believed in me.”

Immediately after entering the game, Williams brought energy and then some. On his first possession, he converted a three-point play and followed it up with a mid-range jumper on the next trip down. For Williams, coming off the bench and making a difference is a role he’s familiar with, and one that he is more than happy to play for his squad.

“(Coming off the bench), it’s not a jarring difference,” Williams said. “I’ve been in this position before.”

Dickinson proved to be a difference-maker as well. Though he didn’t enter the game until around the 13-minute mark and struggled early on, Dickinson looked far more confident on the offensive end once Williams joined him on the floor. Dickinson threw down a massive jam off an offensive rebound following a missed 3-pointer to cut the Knights’ lead to three and later converted another second chance bucket to put the Wolverines up 33-30 following a jumper from Williams. 

“On the offensive glass with his length, it’s always good to have him,” Howard said. “If you miss a spot, he’s there to clean it up. Or if he gets in the low block, he’s there to finish it.”

While Dickinson has come off the bench as a reserve for the season’s first four games, he has arguably been one of the team’s most consistent performers on a nightly basis, scoring 14 points and hauling down seven rebounds tonight to mark his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring performance. As is the case with Williams, Dickinson has embraced his role on the bench. 

“He’s a total team guy,” Howard said. “He trusts the process and that’s a coach’s dream, to have a guy that’s all in and trusts what we can bring to the table to help him be successful.”

Four games into the season, Howard has twice called on the two freshmen to deliver a spark for his team, and the pair has responded on both occasions. Last Sunday, Michigan was also struggling, and the duo helped spark a second half rally, with Dickinson scoring 19 points and Williams contributing seven. On Sunday afternoon, the final 10 minutes of the first half, Williams and Dickinson combined to score 16 out of the team’s 22 points.

“The chemistry’s really good between us,” Dickinson said. “But I think the chemistry among us all is really good. I think this team is really close and everybody’s really close-knit and I think we all work really well together.”

In the second half, Michigan rode the hot shooting touch of fellow reserve Brown — who finished with 19 points and four 3-pointers — to cruise to a relatively easy win. Johns also added a strong effort on loose balls and the offensive glass. 

The game looked like it had all the makings of an upset special early on, but the team’s reserves were the ones to turn it around in the Wolverines’ favor.

“They changed the game for us,” Howard said.

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