Michigan basketball was getting run off of its own court by Central Florida.
Then Juwan Howard went to his bench.
Thanks to the work of Hunter Dickinson, Terrance Williams and Brandon Johns, the Wolverines erased a 12-point deficit by going on a 22-4 run to end the first half en route to a 80-58 win over the Knights.
During that stretch, Dickinson and Williams combined for 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting and six rebounds, while Johns forced several stops and tallied two points and two assists.
Michigan pushed the lead to 20 with a 14-0 run in the second half as the team’s sixth man, Chaundee Brown, heated up.
Brown started the second half 4-of-4 from the field, including a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown, and finished with a team-high 18 points.
How Michigan turned it around
The Wolverines came out flat. Central Florida isn’t known for its offensive prowess — but the Knights were scoring at will early on in the first half. UCF also created a couple turnovers during a 14-1 run that stretched its lead to 12 points.
Then Michigan flipped the switch once the backups came in.
Dickinson, who is still coming off the bench despite being one of the team’s most productive players, immediately made an impact with his size and touch around the rim. Williams hit a couple tough shots, knocked down an open 3 and made a difference with his effort. And Johns looked good, too, with a nifty drive-and-dish to Dickinson and several noteworthy defensive possessions.
Michigan is still figuring things out, but one thing we’ve learned is that Howard isn’t afraid to change things up. He played 26 different lineups through the first two games and is still tinkering with his rotation and lineup combinations. And his decision to play Dickinson, Williams and Johns together completely changed the game after Michigan’s slow start.
Brown heats up
Brown told reporters entering the season that he was a better shooter than his 31% 3-point percentage last season indicated, and so far, he has been true to his word — even if he is somewhat streaky.
He made five consecutive triples (and made 5-of-7) against Bowling Green in the opener, and then went 1-of-10 from 3 in the next contest against Oakland. Sunday night, Brown’s jumper was on. He shot 3-of-4 from outside — and had a personal 8-0 scoring run in the second half that stretched Michigan’s lead to 14 by hitting a long two and then two consecutive catch-and-shoot 3s. So far, Brown looks like a top contender for the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
Depth pays off
Michigan didn’t get much from the starting lineup.
Coming off two consecutive 20-plus point outings, leading scorer Isaiah Livers struggled with his outside shot, shooting 1-of-6 from 3-point range, and didn’t score his first basket until 6:16 remained. He was also taken off the court during the Wolverines’ defining first-half run, as he was substituted out at the 9:24 mark and did not return until 0:55 remained.
Franz Wagner, meanwhile, picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and sat for the rest of the first half. Point guard Mike Smith scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting (although he had four assists) and center Austin Davis scored four points. Eli Brooks was the only starter who reached double digits, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
Normally, it’s a bad sign if the bench outscores the starting lineup, as Michigan experienced Sunday night. But the Wolverines won comfortably because players like Dickinson (who finished with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting), Brown, Williams and Johns all played so well.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball blows out UCF behind dominant bench