Michigan basketball stays undefeated with 84-73 win at Maryland

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Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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Michigan basketball celebrated New Year's Eve in style.

The 15th-ranked Wolverines powered their way to an impressive 84-73 win at Maryland, staying undefeated and remaining atop the Big Ten standings.

U-M looked prepared from the opening tip, scoring 46 points in the first half before pulling away in the second half with a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 10 with 8:39 remaining. The Wolverines eventually stretched their lead to as much as 19 and closed out their third conference game comfortably.

Freshman center Hunter Dickinson continued his torrid start, scoring a game- and career-high 26 points on 10 of 11 shooting with 11 rebounds. Franz Wagner added 19 points while Mike Smith scored 16.

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) goes to the basket next to Maryland forward Jairus Hamilton (25) and guard Darryl Morsell (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in College Park, Md.
Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) goes to the basket next to Maryland forward Jairus Hamilton (25) and guard Darryl Morsell (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in College Park, Md.

[ Hunter Dickinson knows how to play 'when the popcorn's popping' ]

Dickinson's impressive homecoming

Dickinson, who attended DeMatha Catholic High School and is from the D.C. area, told reporters earlier this week that he felt somewhat disrespected when Maryland did not recruit him heavily. It was clear that Dickinson carried that grudge into Thursday's contest: In the first half, he could be seen staring down the Terrapins' bench as he ran back down the court after scoring. Eventually, Dickinson was called for a technical foul — but while he calmed down, he did not cool down.

The freshman center looked like the best player on the floor at times and was consistently impactful on offense. He was deadly efficient, shooting over 90% from the field while making 6 of 7 free throws, and grabbed four offensive rebounds. Dickinson's size proved too much to handle for Maryland, and time after time, he was able to establish position down low and score over defenders.

Smith, Wagner impactful on offense

It wasn't all Dickinson. Michigan also got standout performances from Wagner and Smith, who hit a season-high with his 16 points while grabbing six rebounds and handing out a team-high six assists.

Wagner was averaging under 10 points through the first five games and averaging just 6.7 field-goal attempts, but has been significantly more assertive over the past two games. He scored 20 points on 9 of 16 shooting at Nebraska on Christmas Day and was similarly aggressive at Maryland, scoring 10 points in the opening half. Wagner has upped his playmaking skills and had four assists Thursday, including a crucial wrap-around pass to Dickinson that led to an and-one. He also made 3 of 6 3s, an encouraging sign for Michigan considering he was averaging 26.3% on 3s entering the contest.

Smith, meanwhile, has been one of the Wolverines' top players over the past couple games. He is not the primary option like he was for Columbia last season, but his new role suits Smith just fine: He can pick his spots as a scorer (and hit a couple tough jumpers, including a long step-back 2) while also distributing, finishing with 16 points and six assists. And despite being the smallest player on the floor (listed generously at 5-foot-11), Smith can rebound well, too, with six boards against the Terrapins. It is the second consecutive game he has stuffed the stat sheet after compiling 10 points, six assists and five rebounds at Nebraska.

Back-and-forth first half

Offensively, Michigan played one of its best halves of basketball in the first half of Thursday's game. The Wolverines got open looks whenever they wanted and scored 1.3 points per possession. Michigan got to the free throw line early and often and made 15 of 16 attempts, while almost every player in the rotation got on the stat sheet. It was a crisp performance that, in most games, would've led to a comfortable lead.

But Maryland did not back down. The Terrapins, who came off an upset win at Wisconsin in their previous contest, trailed by as much as 10 in the first half but then chipped away at the lead with a barrage of 3-pointers. Maryland made 9 of 11 3s in the first half. One could argue that, based on the team's shooting percentage, the Terrapins shot better than they usually would, but these 3s weren't all difficult looks. Many of them were open shots generated by Maryland's small-ball lineup, which spread the floor and proved to be a good answer to Michigan's offense (and the size of center Hunter Dickinson). So, despite the Wolverines' efficient scoring, they led by just two at halftime.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball stays undefeated with 84-73 win at Maryland