Franz Wagner, Michigan basketball roll Indiana, 73-57, now one win from Big Ten title

by 24USATVFeb. 28, 2021, 4 a.m. 30
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The third-ranked Wolverines blew out Indiana, 73-57, in Bloomington, Ind. on Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall, and drew one game closer to winning their first conference title since the 2014. Michigan can secure the title by winning one of its three remaining games, assuming the deciding factor will be win percentage.

Despite a short turnaround from Thursday night's win over No. 12 Iowa, Michigan had little trouble dispatching the Hoosiers. Michigan led for nearly the entire game — and by double digits for much of the second half.

The Wolverines did not play a clean offensive game, but limited Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis to his worst game of the season and received standout performances from Franz Wagner, who scored a game-high 21 points, and Isaiah Livers, who scored 16 (11 in the second half). Mike Smith added 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting and Hunter Dickinson scored 13 points with seven rebounds.

Few teams can win individual matchups against Michigan's two star wings. And when both are playing well, it is extremely difficult to beat the Wolverines. Wagner followed up a 21-point performance against Iowa with another efficient game. He scored 14 points in the first half by attacking and getting to the free-throw line. And he added a couple more highlight plays after halftime, including a block on a dunk attempt and a high-skying layup in transition.

At the start of the second half, it was Livers who carried Michigan's offense. He knocked down a deep 3-pointer from straightaway to open the half, hit his second over a contesting defender and then drained a wide-open look after Indiana double-teamed Dickinson down low.

The two combined for a personal 6-0 run, accentuated by an emphatic put-back dunk from Livers, that stretched Michigan's lead to 17 with just over 11 minutes left. And when Indiana responded to that run with a 5-0 spurt, Wagner converted an and-one.

Just days after limiting Luka Garza, the nation's leading scorer, to 16 points on 6 of 19 shooting, Dickinson turned in another remarkable defensive outing against Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis, who entered the game averaging 20.3 points. He scored three points in the first half on 1 of 7 shooting. And while the basket was an and-one dunk over Dickinson, it only happened because another Michigan defender was beat off the dribble and Dickinson had to rotate to help. Otherwise, Dickinson played textbook defense, walling up and contesting vertically without fouling. That induced plenty of close misses from Jackson-Davis.

The second half wasn't much better for Jackson-Davis, as he scored seven points on 2 of 5 shooting to finish with 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting and two turnovers.

Entering Saturday, Indiana averaged 23.8 free throws, seventh-most nationally. Yet it was the Wolverines who spent much of the first half at the line. Michigan drew 11 fouls in the first 20 minutes, reaching the bonus quickly, and shot 16 of 18 on free throws. Wagner was the catalyst, drawing numerous fouls on drives to the basket and shooting 7-for-7 at the line. The free throws kept Michigan's offense afloat in the first half, even when the Wolverines shot 11 of 27 from the field.

Contact Orion Sang at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball rolls Indiana, 73-57, now 1 win from Big Ten title

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