In its previous game, Michigan basketball went to overtime against a team it was favored to beat by 31 points.
Wednesday night's game against Ball State was not nearly so close.
Three days after their win against Oakland, the Wolverines cruised past the the Cardinals, 84-65.
Michigan led by as many as 20 points in the first half. And although that lead shrank to seven by halftime, the Wolverines eventually stretched their advantage back over 20 and won comfortably.
Isaiah Livers scored a game-high 21 points, Franz Wagner had 14 points and Hunter Dickinson posted a double-double, with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Wagner heats up
This was supposed to be Wagner's breakout season after an impressive freshman campaign. Through the first two games, though, he struggled offensively, averaging 7.5 points on just 40% shooting. Against Oakland, he scored six points and had five turnovers.
On Wednesday, Wagner played his best game of the season. He was assertive early on, looking for his own shot by driving to the rim. By the first TV timeout, he had seven points, one assist and four drawn fouls. Wagner is still productive even when he doesn't score much — he had 13 rebounds against the Grizzlies and his length has caused problems for opposing offenses — but the Wolverines' offense just seems smoother when Wagner's shots are going down. And that's exactly what happened Wednesday on 4-for-6 shooting — including making his only 3-point attempt — and 5-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line.
Dickinson still looks like the team's top center
Dickinson has yet to start, but he has looked like Michigan's top center through the first three games. He was the main reason the Wolverines avoided a major upset against Oakland, scoring 19 points (all in the second half and overtime) while earning a team-high plus-minus rating of 18.
Against the Cardinals, it didn't take long before he impacted the game. In his first 10 minutes, Dickinson tallied six points and five rebounds (two on offense).
With Dickinson in, Michigan opened up a 17-point lead in the first half. When he left, the Cardinals went on a 16-6 run to cut the Wolverines' lead to seven at halftime. So far, he has been the top option at center — and his plus-minus rating of 39 points over the past two games bears that out.
Not only has Dickinson been a major asset on offense, he has also played well on defense — especially considering he is a true freshman. His length and size make it hard for opponents to score over him at the rim (he blocked one shot off a Ball State player in the second half) and he has rebounded very well on both ends of the court.
Livers continues torrid start
Livers has always been one of Michigan's top shooters. Last season, he averaged better than 40% from 3-point range and flirted with a rare 50/40/90 shooting season. So far, the senior forward has picked up where he left off. He was 8-for-11 shooting on Wednesday and made several mid-range jumpers; against Oakland, he scored 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Through the first three games, Livers has hit 23 of 37 from the field (62%), including 9-for-17 from behind the 3-point line.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball cruises to blowout win over Ball State, 84-65