Michigan forward Franz Wagner rose up from the right corner and buried a three over the outstretched arms of Darryl Morsell. That was the story of the game for Maryland (8-7, 2-6 B1G), as Michigan’s (12-1, 7-1 B1G) quick ball movement and prolific shooting were pivotal in the Wolverines’ 87-63 victory.
Wagner’s three was Michigan’s eighth and final of the first half, on a night where the Wolverines made 12 total threes and shot 50% from behind the arc. Maryland knocked down just four shots from behind the arc, but it was the Terps’ defense that let them down Tuesday night. Despite containing Hunter Dickinson down low, the Wolverines’ multi-faceted offensive attack proved too much to handle.
“[Michigan] is really hard to guard,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Low post if you don’t double them, they score on you. If you double them, they can shoot threes. They shot the ball terrific tonight; they moved the ball great.”
The Wolverines’ ball movement throughout was exquisite as they penetrated to the basket and kicked out to open shooters when necessary as they finished with 20 assists on 29 made field goals. Michigan had a healthy mix of quick and methodical offense, which the Terps had trouble diagnosing all night.
Coming off their first loss of the season an 18-point loss against No. 17 Minnesota, the Wolverines came out of the gates firing in the opening six minutes on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, guard Mike Smith and forward Isaiah Livers keyed the Wolverines’ prolific attack as they combined to knock down five threes. Smith and Livers made the Terps pay for not rotating out to shooters fast enough, as the Wolverines took a commanding 17-3 lead with 14:14 remaining.
While Michigan’s prolific outside shooting galvanized its offense, the Wolverines’ stifling defense made it difficult for Maryland to establish any sense of flow offensively. Both Smith and Livers played with active hands on the perimeter, accompanied by stout low post defense from Dickinson and Wagner.
“Our rotations and our communications weren’t great,” Turgeon said. “They’re hard to guard and the thing that makes them even more special is how well they guard defensively and how locked in they’re into their game plan defensively.”
Maryland’s offense found a little bit of flow as the first half progressed with Donta Scott attacking his matchup as he was guarded by the taller and less agile Austin Davis. After consecutive baskets from the Wolverines, Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart answered with consecutive baskets that cut Michigan’s lead to nine.
That nine-point deficit was the closest the Terps came for the remainder of the contest as Michigan’s multi-faceted offensive attack continued to hit its stride. The final 5:35 of the first half, the Wolverines outscored the Terps 14-6, which put Maryland in a tough 17-point halftime deficit.
Michigan picked up its first half momentum out of the break, as Eli Brooks knocked down a wide open three from the right corner in front of the Wolverines’ bench. That three followed a similar script to the first half as Maryland’s defensive rotations weren’t fast enough and Michigan’s ball movement was mesmerizing.
“I’d say that the second half was probably frustrating more than the first six minutes of [the game],” Morsell said. “In the second half when we were down, I feel like we could’ve fought more and just gave a little bit more effort regardless of the score.”
Less than two minutes later, Dickinson got on the board with his first basket of the game, showcasing Michigan’s ability to attack in the paint as well as the perimeter. On the ensuing possession, Morsell finished a layup inside and appeared to hit in the face. After no foul was called, both Morsell and Turgeon screamed at the official and both were awarded technicals.
Unfortunately for Maryland, the technical foul didn’t provide a spark and the Wolverines lead continued to grow. Everytime the Terps offense showed signs of life, Michigan promptly answered with a basket that took the life out of Maryland’s comeback hopes.
With 13:22 remaining, Galin Smith and Jairus Hamilton knocked down consecutive shots on two of Maryland’s most effective offensive sets of the night. However, Michigan immediately answered with Livers’ fourth three of the night, quickly followed by a jumper from Davis.
Playing extensive minutes with a sizable lead, Davis began to establish himself in the paint, which added another challenge to the Wolverines’ lethal attack. As Davis found success so did Wagner, showing why he’s one of the premier frontcourt players in the conference.
Between their ability to attack with pace and patience buoyed by their impressive ball movement and lethal shooting, the Wolverines showed why they’re in first place in the conference and one of the best teams in the nation.