Michigan basketball played its best 20 minutes of the season to start its ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup.
Its star in the post, Hunter Dickinson, set the tone with some bully ball. Its most explosive player, Jett Howard, rained in multiple 3s, as did transfer point guard Jaelin Llewellyn.
Kobe Bufkin had timely buckets including a scoop and score to end the half and send the crowd into a frenzy with an 11-point leading going into the break. The only problem − there was still another half to play.
No. 3 Virginia blitzed Michigan out of the break, making six of its first seven shots to trim the lead to two. The Cavaliers continued to get good looks at the rim, shot 51% from the field in the game and held on with free throws late for the 70-68 win on Tuesday at Crisler Center.
Dickinson scored 23 points and had seven rebounds to pace the Wolverines, followed by Howard with 15, and Kobe Bufkin with 11.
Reece Beekman was just shy of his career-high (20) with 18 points, including 15 in the first half to keep the Cavliers in it. Kihei Clark scored 16 including the game-winning free throws while Jayden Gardner and Kadin Shedrick each had 12 and Ben Vander Plas score 10.
The game sealing sequence
The game was tied at 65 with less than two minutes to play when Dickinson was fouled. He went to the line and split the free throws to put Michigan up by one. Virginia called a timeout and drew up a set that ended with a good look inside by Jayden Gardner but he missed the six-footer and Dickinson grabbed the board.
Michigan's 7-foot-1 center missed a lefty hook shot from close range on the next possession before Gardner buried a jumper from the elbow with 39.9 seconds to play to put the Cavs up one. On the Wolverines' ensuing possession, coach Juwan Howard elected not to call a timeout and set up a play, instead letting his team go on the fly.
It resulted in a turnover when a Llewllyn pass intended for Howard was stolen by Beekman. Howard grabbed the guard who was about to break away for a layup and was called for an intentional foul. Beekman split the free throws, but by rule, Virginia retained possession.
xxxx Clark was fouled on the inbound and the guard who was on Virginia's 2019 national championship team calmly knocked down both free throws to make it a four-point game.
Howard took the ball up court and dished it down low to Dickinson who made a layup with six seconds to play. Armaan Franklin received the in-bound pass for Virginia and was fouled with 5.7 to play.
He missed both free throws, which gave the Wolverines one last gasp but Howard couldn't get a long three-pointer off at the buzzer. He lost control of the ball as he went up for it, the Michigan bench and crowd screamed for a foul call, but the whistle wasn't blown.
Second half flip
Michigan shot the lights out in the first half. Entering the game making just 31.2% of its long balls, the Wolverines went 7-of-13 on three-pointers in the first period - Howard made 3-of-5 and Llewellyn hit 2-of-3.
But water found its level in the second half. After Terrance Williams hit a long ball from the corner with 18:40 to play in the half and push the lead back out to 11, the Wolverines went cold.
UM wouldn't make another triple the rest of the way.
In the meantime, Virginia continued to chip away and the game turned midway through the second half. The Wolverines were up 56-50 when there was a loose ball foul away from the play which led to a media timeout.
After review during the timeout, Dickinson was called for a technical foul and Clark made both free throws. That sparked a 15-4 Virginia run, nine of which came from the Ohio Transfer Vander Plas to put the Cavs up by five, their largest lead since the opening minutes of the game.
The Wolverines went more than seven minutes without a field goal during the stretch, but Bufkin, Williams and Dickinson went 5-of-6 at the line to keep Michigan in striking distance before Dickinson tipped in his own miss to tie the game at 65.
Michigan shot just 7-of-18 from the floor in the second half.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball can't hold off No. 3 Virginia, lose at home, 70-68