Michigan basketball's hot shooting proves contagious in 80-62 win at Indiana

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The ball whipped around the perimeter and into the hands of Michigan basketball small forward Caleb Houstan, former five-star recruit hailed for his poise and perimeter shooting. He caught the pass in the right corner, within arm’s reach of an expectant Wolverines’ bench, and set himself with the supremely balanced form he’d displayed all afternoon.

Rise, fire, swish.

This particular 3-pointer, which shoved U-M in front by 13 after Indiana had begun lopping points off the lead, prompted the notoriously stoic Houstan to celebrate. Compared by coach Juwan Howard to the stone-faced NBA star Kawhi Leonard earlier in the week, Houstan allowed himself a moment of bliss. He stared into the IU bleachers and bellowed before making his way down the court.

WHAT HAPPENED?: Why Hunter Dickinson's COVID-19 test caused Michigan to postpone date with MSU

With his second consecutive dose of sizzling 3-point shooting, Houstan spearheaded a wonderful offensive performance that routinely silenced the packed crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Michigan made 11 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc Sunday en route to arguably its most impressive win of the season, 80-62, over an Indiana team that hadn’t lost at home all season.

Houstan and center Hunter Dickinson combined for 24 points from 3-point range alone as the Wolverines finished with a plus-18 after IU finished 5 of 19 from the perimeter. U-M was 11-for-17 (64.7%) from the 3-point line.

Michigan center Hunter Dickinson reacts to a made basket in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Bloomington, Indiana.
Michigan center Hunter Dickinson reacts to a made basket in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Bloomington, Indiana.

Dickinson led all scorers with 25 points and nine rebounds. Houstan, small forward Terrance Williams II and power forward Moussa Diabate chipped in 39 to balance the offense.

Earlier in the week, Howard described the mental boost shooters receive when the first 3-pointer of a game finds its mark. The message rang true again Sunday for Houstan, who broke free from his slump in the win over Maryland with 16 points on 3 of 4 shooting from beyond the arc. Once Houstan buried a 3-pointer from the left wing on his first attempt against Indiana, the confidence flowed from player to player as perimeter shooting propelled the Wolverines to an early lead.

There were additional 3-pointers from Dickinson, who swished from the top of the key; from Brandon Johns Jr., who returned to the court for the first time since Dec. 30 after battling COVID-19; from Houstan, who finished the afternoon having made eight of 11 in the last two games; and from Williams, who came off the bench and carried the Michigan offense with an impressive flurry late in the first half.

Indiana guard Xavier Johnson shoots the ball while Michigan guard Eli Brooks defends in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Bloomington, Indiana.
Indiana guard Xavier Johnson shoots the ball while Michigan guard Eli Brooks defends in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Bloomington, Indiana.

Such unexpected marksmanship from the Wolverines, who have been undone by poor perimeter shooting in numerous losses this season, created a chasm between the two teams. The Hoosiers entered Sunday ranked 132nd in 3-point shooting at 34.3% and fared significantly worse than their average. More than 17 minutes elapsed before Indiana connected on a perimeter jumper after a series of air balls, clanks and miscalculations. Howard’s blending of man-to-man defense with zone looks and full-court pressure further induced IU’s misfires.

The Hoosiers, who trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, made their run in the opening stanza of the second half when a dunk by forward Race Thompson pulled them within 55-45 as the crowd swelled to a crescendo. What they lacked in 3-point shooting they offset with a willingness to attack the basket.

But just as Howard’s team had done all afternoon, the Wolverines separated themselves with well-timed shots from beyond the arc. Houstan buried his shot in front of the U-M bench. Then Dickinson swished a beauty from the top of the key to infuriate the insult-spewing fans one more time. He relished the role of the villain and roared as he backpedaled down the floor.

Contact Michael Cohen at mcohen@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Hunter Dickinson, Michigan basketball beats Indiana, 80-62