The Wolverine

April 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2022 BY JOHN BORTON M i c h i ga n ba s ke tba l l fa n s couldn't stomach their fa- vorite team's odds heading into the regular-season fi- nale at Ohio State. Fortunately for all, the Wolverines could. Because they could, and overcame the Buckeyes, the Wolverines made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the sec- ond straight season. Shocking drama in the Big Ten Tournament notwithstand- ing, the win at OSU turned out to be for all the NCAA marbles. It looked nearly hopeless, in a game most insisted Michigan needed to win to make The Big Dance. Historians under- stood the Wolverines had captured only two victories in Columbus over the past 15 games played there. Compounding an already daunting task, Michigan's best player found him- self suddenly and shockingly shelved. Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson began throwing up around 3 a.m. the day of the game, and his stomach issues kept him out of action. Combine that with the foreknowl- edge that sharpshooting freshman Caleb Houston would go 0 for 10 and scoreless against the Buckeyes, and no- body would have given the Wolverines a snowflake's chance in an active volcano of winning. Yet win they did. From the celebra- tion amid the snowflakes in Michigan Stadium in November, to U-M's shock- ing 75-69 victory at The Schottenstein Center, Michigan's OSU mojo carried on. In Dickinson's absence, grad transfer point guard DeVante' Jones delivered his most clutch performance in a Michigan uniform since transferring from Coastal Carolina. Jones led all scorers with 21 points, while dishing out nine assists, helping three others in double figures get there. Sophomore forward Terrance Wil- liams — an out-of-nowhere hero in the final week of the season — nailed three three-pointers and scored 17. Fresh- man Moussa Diabate moved to center in Dickinson's absence and scored 14, including a resounding slam dunk to put a lid on Buckeye hopes. Fifth-year senior Eli Brooks matched those 14, and the Wolverines in general scrambled like their tournament lives depended on this game. They not only scooped up 11 steals, forcing 13 OSU turnovers, they did not commit a turn- over during the final 18:56 of the game. In short, with their backs against the wall, the Phil Martelli-guided squad backed OSU into the Olentangy River. "We were on every ball, so we were raising hell on that court, every guy that got in the game," noted Martelli, in his final game subbing for the suspended Juwan Howard as head coach. They all made it a memorable one. "Give Michigan credit," Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann offered. "Tough loss, but give them credit. I thought they played really well." Much better than in a 68-57 loss to the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor on Feb. 12. In that one, OSU's E.J. Liddell dominated with 28 points, while the Wolverines put only two players in double figures. This time around, U-M not only picked up the slack for the missing Dickinson and the hamstrung Houston, they double-teamed Liddell in the post down the stretch. OSU's star wound up with 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Those check marks and Michigan's 13 offensive rebounds turned the tide, Holtmann admitted. "That was an issue," Holtmann noted of the way the Wolverines swarmed the offensive glass. "That and our rebound- ing were significant issues that were ad- dressed at halftime. I just think they got into us and bothered us, and we didn't run good lead cuts. Then their trapping on the baseline was something they had not done. "Obviously when you play a team a month ago and you beat them, they're going to make adjustments. They ad- justed to how they were playing the post, and we thought we had given them solutions. Clearly, we didn't. So that's on me." Winning, in the toughest of circum- stances, was on the Wolverines. With- out their head coach, without their best player, without a point from a double- figures scorer and in one of the nastiest venues in the Big Ten, they prevailed. "He's a great player," Diabate said of Dickinson. "We obviously need him, but like Coach always says, we have enough. I believe that when we play as a team, no matter who's in, we're definitely going to have a chance against any team we play. We did what we needed to do, and it worked out." A WILD, WHIPSAW FINAL WEEK OF ACTION The victory in Columbus marked the end of a crazy final week of regular- season action. The dust-up in Wiscon- sin on Feb. 20 — in which a provoked Howard open-handedly face-washed a Badgers assistant coach in the hand- shake line — left Michigan without their head coach for the final five games of the regular season. Martelli took over, naming assistant Howard Eisley his offensive coordina- tor, Saddi Washington his defensive co- ordinator and promoting staffer Chris Hunter to assistant duties. That crew oversaw a home split in the immediate MAKING THEIR STAND Last-Ditch Win In Columbus Propels A Tourney Team In U-M's win over Ohio State in the regu- lar-season finale, grad transfer point guard DeVante' Jones delivered his most clutch per- formance in a Michigan uniform, leading all scorers with 21 points, while dishing out nine assists. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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