Ann Arbor – Michigan March started with a bang. Check it out Hunter Dickinson High School Center.
Monster Night by Dickinson. Photographing the lights. Revenge in a rematch. The Wolverines had it all when they bombed Michigan State, 87-70, and started the final week of the regular season with a decisive victory.
“(Assistant coach) Seddi (Washington) was telling us yesterday that you should bring your alternate ego,” Dickinson said. “For me, I try to just go out there and play those feelings on my sleeve and be my best self.”
Dickinson brought that copy on Tuesday at the Chrysler Center. It was fiery. It was mobile. He scored 33 points, the highest level of his career. It ended a timid recovery from a double double. He shot 13 to 19 from the ground. He drew nine errors.
Simply put, he did it all while leading the Michigan team (16-12, 10-8 Big Ten), who fired 58.2% from the field (32 vs. 55) and drove in double digits over the last 27 minutes.
“He showed why he’s all-American and should be the first American team this year,” said striker Terrence Williams II. “He does it from the inside out. He bounces. He leads the team. We just follow him and he gives us energy.”
After assembling the dominant first half that Dickinson fueled, Michigan never gave up. Dickinson kept pounding paint. New striker Caleb Houston (16 points) scored seven consecutive points in 58 seconds. The Wolverines’ lead swelled to 55-33 with 17:40 to play.
Gabe Brown felt the heat and did his best to breathe some life into Michigan State (19-10, 10-8), dropping a pair of deep balls and jumps during the first four minutes of the half. But it hardly affected the deficit, as Dickinson kept feeding on singles matches.
When Michigan crime had slowed for a long time, Michigan State began gaining momentum. The Spartans fought back with a 14-5 inning that included three baskets by Maddy Sissoko and finished with a neck cut by Max Christie, trimming Michigan’s lead to 67-55 with 8:00 remaining.
The Wolverines turned to Dickinson to keep the Spartans in trouble and handed them over. He scored 10 consecutive points for Michigan and refused to let the game crumble in the second half, as happened in the first game in East Lansing earlier this season.
“I think at Michigan State in the second half, we settled a lot,” said Williams, who made three three-pointers. “We were settling and not defending, today, we defended better and we weren’t quite stable. This just comes with Hunter taking the paint, bringing it in and letting it work.”
Dickinson threw three submerged stones along the stretch to keep Michigan in a double-digit hole. The first came from feeding the pick-and-roll from the wedding transfer guard DeVante’ Jones. The second came on the basis of the basic engine while experiencing an error.
Then after Michigan State pulled out within 12 times again, he made the final touches by throwing a one-handed jam to make the score 77-63 with 4:10 to go. Progress never fell below 14 points the rest of the way.
Brown finished with 12 points and Tyson Walker 11 points for Michigan State, which fired 45.8% from the field (27 to 59). The loss interrupted a two-game winning streak in the Spartans’ rivalry series and denied Michigan State coach Tom Izu’s attempt to overtake Bobby Knight as the all-time Big Ten coach.
“We were poor defensively and it didn’t look like we were guarding anyone,” Ezzo said. “They played better than us, they shot better than us, they moved the ball better than us. We were supposed to double serve after the first half and we didn’t. The best team won tonight.”
more: ‘The best team won’: Michigan State University continues to collapse in 87-70 loss to rival Michigan
Both teams loudly exited the gate during a frantic start marked by a wave of onslaught. Michigan State made four of the six shots, and Michigan State made its first five attempts. But once the Spartans cooled off and lost a streak of shots, Wolverine’s side stayed hot and lost 16-2.
Brown fouled Houston in a three-point attempt to start the surge with three free throws. Dickinson added a bucket in paint. Senior guard Eli Brooks in Year 5 followed him up with a pair of driving exercises.
Williams buried 3-pointers from winger and new goalkeeper Frankie Collins – who took over after Jones made two fouls in less than three minutes of the game – threw a Dickinson pass over the edge to score 14 points. Unanswered points.
But things didn’t improve in Michigan by the end of the race. After Walker cut a four-minute drought with a mid-range jump, Brown made his second foul and top forward Brandon Jones Jr. doubled free throws to give Michigan a 25-13 lead with 11:43 left in the first half.
Wolverine kept getting everything they wanted in attack and the Spartans had no answers for Dickinson. The huge man made an 11-2 three-basket spurt in the paint — on a hook shot, a dipping and an offensive rebound — before Williams drained a three-pointer corner kick, pushing Michigan’s 44-26 lead en route to a first-half 16-point advantage.
The Wolverines never ceded control the rest of the way as they started a crucial lockdown extension with the right foot and gave their post-season hopes a much needed boost.
“I hope they stop putting us in the (NCAA Championship) bubble,” Dickinson said. “Hopefully we can solidify ourselves and not be as nervous as Chosen Sunday comes.
“It’s starting to get close to not having many opportunities to get ahead… and trying to get as much momentum as possible is very helpful at this time of year.”
“Student. Incurable problem solver. Amateur baconaholic. Introvert. Infuriatingly humble music fanatic.”