Michigan ended the year with a bang and Hunter Dickinson made a statement.
Fueled by an overwhelming second-half run and a career night from the freshman center, the No. 16 Wolverines remained unbeaten and cruised to an 84-73 New Year’s Eve victory over Maryland at the Xfinity Center.
Dickinson, as he has numerous times this season, proved to be the difference-maker. The DeMatha Catholic product tallied a season-high 26 points and 11 rebounds to record his third double-double and shot 10-for-11 from the field in his return home.
BOX SCORE: No. 16 Michigan 84, Maryland 73
“It was a lot of fun,” said Dickinson, who noted earlier this week he felt “disrespected” when he wasn’t recruited by the Terrapins. “Coming back to the DMV, it was bringing back a lot of memories, especially being so close to DeMatha. It brought back a lot of memories, a lot of good times.
“Hopefully I showed the guys down the road at Madison Street are pretty good and they should go down there sometime.”
After Maryland used its 10th 3-pointer to take its first lead of the game early in the second half and pulled ahead 54-50 with 15:04 to play, Dickinson helped Michigan (8-0, 3-0 Big Ten) flip a switch and completely take over by spearheading a 29-7 run.
The momentous flurry started with a string of 10 unanswered points. Sophomore wing Franz Wagner drained a 3-pointer to get things going before Dickinson converted a three-point play off a wraparound feed from Wagner and found senior guard Eli Brooks cutting along the baseline for a double-clutch dunk to put Michigan up, 60-54, at the 12:15 mark.
Maryland used another 3-pointer to pull within one, but Wagner and Dickinson continued to give the Terrapins fits. Wagner scored on a pull-up in the paint and threw down a fast-break dunk off a turnover. Dickinson scored on a putback and off the glass before throwing down a two-handed jam as the Wolverines rattled off 13 consecutive points.
“I think it all starts with Hunter Dickinson,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “He was phenomenal. He scored on the block, passed out of the block, played really good defensively.
“We doubled a little bit but he’s a terrific passer, too. A couple times he scored against a double-team. There are two guys in there guarding him and then we’re switching ball screens in a small lineup and he got an offensive rebound against a guard. He was terrific. He manhandled our guards in there.”
But Dickinson wasn’t done. He set his new season-high scoring mark on a pair of free throws before using another post finish to add to his scoring total. By the time Michigan’s second-half flurry settled, the lead ballooned to 79-61 with 5:20 remaining.
Dickinson’s final bucket gave the Wolverines their largest cushion, 84-65, and capped an outing where they put on an offensive clinic despite an off night from senior forward Isaiah Livers.
Wagner finished with 19 points, grad transfer Mike Smith added 16 points, six assists and six rebounds, and Brooks scored 10 as Michigan shot a season-high 58.8% from the field (30-for-51) and outscored Maryland 18-4 at the free-throw line.
According to Michigan coach Juwan Howard, Livers rolled his ankle on a drive early in the game and was “hobbling all night.” Howard initially thought Livers wasn’t going to play in the second half but he pushed through, finishing with seven points in 26 minutes.
Donta Scott scored 19, Eric Ayala added 16 and Jairus Hamilton had 15 for Maryland (6-4, 1-3). The Terrapins shot 9-for-11 from 3-point range in first half and finished 13-for-22 from beyond the arc.
“I thought Michigan was terrific all night. They were shot out of a cannon,” Turgeon said. “We couldn’t guard them. They got downhill. They played inside-out. They played inside with Hunter.
“Dickinson was a man possessed. He was really, really, really good tonight. We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us and our offense was good enough to win the game. Our defense just wasn’t good enough…They’re really, really good. They’re really long, really tall. They executed at a high level.”
The lone blemish on Dickinson’s night came during the first half when he seemed to show a bit more emotion and four technical fouls were called. A tech was assessed to Michigan’s and Maryland’s benches after Dickinson scored an and-1 layup and looked toward the Terrapins’ sideline.
Dickinson was also whistled for a tech with 4:46 left before halftime when he flexed and looked at the Maryland bench again after hitting a left-handed hook shot.
“The ref thought I said something,” Dickinson said. “I opened my mouth to say something, but I was like, nope, and closed my mouth real quick. I guess he anticipated it. It’s all right.”
Added Howard: “They (refs) said that he said something to the bench. I don’t get into the back and forth. My thing is just stay locked in on the floor. There’s no need to share or tell someone what you’re going to do out there. Just go out there and compete and let your play do the talking.”
In the end, that’s what Dickinson did as he dominated and delivered a message near his old stomping grounds.
“After the game somebody said he had 26 and I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ I know how much 26 is and that’s a lot of points,” Smith said. “That can’t go unnoticed. We’ve got to celebrate it tonight, but there’s more work to be done tomorrow because we have another game coming up Sunday (against Northwestern).
“We can’t get too high, can’t get too low, but enjoy the 26 because that’s a lot of points in college. It was a silent 26. It wasn’t like a loud 26, but I have to celebrate it with him.”