Playing without senior guard and leading scorer Caris LeVert for the third straight game, the Michigan basketball team faced a tough task against No. 3 Maryland. With on-paper mismatches across the board, the Wolverines needed a special performance if they wanted to secure a win.
And with every impossible-looking 3-pointer, press-breaking pass and forced turnover on defense, Michigan got it. Leading by as many as 13 at times, the Wolverines (3-1 Big Ten, 13-4 overall) survived a late push by the Terrapins (4-1, 15-2) to win, 70-67.
After being outscored by an average of 19 points in three games against top-25 teams this season, Michigan got the marquee win it desperately needed. Here’s out instant reaction at the buzzer.
MVP: Zak Irvin. Duncan Robinson stole the show early on, ending the game with 17 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting, but Irvin quietly filled in much of LeVert’s void, pacing the Wolverines with 22 points while chipping in two rebounds with three assists. The performance was a vast improvement over Irvin’s troublesome games in Michigan’s three other games against ranked opponents.
It was over when… After junior forward Mark Donnal drained a free throw with 14 seconds left, Maryland needed a 3-pointer to tie the game. Terrapin guard Rasheed Sulaimon was on fire late, making his last two three-pointers and had Donnal switched onto him, but Michigan’s junior big man defended well and Sulaimon missed the attempt as Duncan Robinson secured the rebound.
Key Stat: Michigan’s 12 3-pointers were the most Maryland has allowed all season, and each of them kept the Crisler crowd in the game and stopped late Maryland drives. Michigan hit 8-of-15 threes in the first half and cooled off in the second, making just 4-of-14 attempts, before Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin hit decisive threes late in the half to put the Terps away.
Unsung Hero: Derrick Walton Jr. . He wasn’t the leading scorer, and continued to have some uncharacteristic turnovers, but the junior guard led the Wolverines with ten rebounds, and helped hold Maryland guard Melo Trimble (14.8 points per game before Tuesday) to an uncharacteristic two points.