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Michigan basketball: highlights, takeaways from win over Northwestern

Sunday afternoon, Michigan basketball managed to keep its 2022-23 season alive with a win over Northwestern.



Jan 15, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Jett Howard (13) dribbles against Northwestern Wildcats guard Ty Berry (3) in the first half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After starting January with a 2-0 record — which included double-digit wins over Maryland and Penn State — Michigan basketball proceeded to go on a two-game losing streak (Michigan State and Iowa). The Wolverines’ 6-5 nonconference record and 4-2 Big Ten record place U-M at 10-7 overall and outside of the NCAA Tournament picture.

Michigan downs the Wildcats, 85-78

Michigan basketball came into its Sunday afternoon matchup with Northwestern needing a win. After blowing many leads in the Iowa game (and eventually dropping the game in overtime) the Wolverines have their backs against the wall with seven losses in mid-January.

The season is still relatively young and the Wolverines still have time to turn the sinking ship around, but if Michigan had dropped today’s game, the season would be all but over. Northwestern basketball came into today’s game with a 12-4 overall record and a 3-2 Big Ten record.

The Wolverines’ offense — which had seemed non-existent against Michigan State a week ago — woke up at Iowa last week and seemingly stayed alive throughout today’s win as well. Against the Hawkeyes, Michigan struggled with defense, which is another issue that seemed to get fixed on Sunday.

When it was all said and done, the Wolverines walked away with a 6-point-victory in a much-needed win over Northwestern.

Game leaders

Points: Kobe Bufkin (20), Dug McDaniel (17), Jett Howard (16)

Assists: Jett Howard (7), Dug McDaniel (5), Hunter Dickinson/Kobe Bufkin (3)

Rebounds: Hunter Dickinson (15), Kobe Bufkin (4), Jett Howard (3)

Steals: Hunter Dickinson (2)

Blocks: Hunter Dickinson (1)


Michigan could be a solid team, but needs some help.

If one thing has become apparent in 2022-23, it is that Michigan basketball is a good team. That being said, the Wolverines are sloppy, undisciplined, mistake-prone, and more. One night, U-M will destroy one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and the next, the Wolverines will lost to a team like Central Michigan. If U-M expects to make a run to the NCAA tournament, they’ll need to clean it up on both sides of the ball.

Teams are catching on to the “Hunter Dickinson method.”

From 2020-2022, Michigan basketball was able to almost solely rely on Hunter Dickinson on both ends of the floor. While Dickinson is still an efficient basketball player and a great defender, teams now know that if you stop Hunter, you can stop Michigan. Seeing as the Wolverines are more one-dimensional than they were during the Big Ten Championship run in 2020-21, it is easier to double Hunter Dickinson and force Michigan to beat you elsewhere.

Michigan basketball makes immature decisions

It is clear time and time again this year: Michigan looks lost and confused. Throughout today’s game, the Wolverines again looked dazed at times and allowed Northwestern to go on huge runs. There are many times that U-M draws up a solid play; however, the Wolverines make poor decision on the fly, turn the ball over frequently, take stupid shots, and more. It is frustrating to see and an issue that must be addressed before the month comes to an end, if not sooner.

Michigan basketball has no identity

One of the biggest things that is killing Michigan basketball this year is the lack of identity. Sometimes U-M plays decent defense, but Michigan is not a defensive team. Sometimes the Wolverines have a solid shooting night, but Michigan is not a shooting team. I could go on, but you get the point. This afternoon, it was evident that we still don’t truly know who Michigan basketball is.

Give Jett Howard the basketball

Michigan basketball is at its best when Jett Howard has the ball. Whether it be defense, rebounding, or drilling much-needed 3-point shots, the Wolverines rely heavily on Jett Howard to move the needle. If these games are coming down to how well Jett plays, U-M might as well feed Howard as much as they can.

STOP the turnovers

Yet again, Michigan basketball had double digit turnovers in today’s game. The Wolverines seemingly gifted the Wildcats the ball 18 times but made up for it by outrebounding Northwestern, 41-29.