Michigan basketball too giving on Thanksgiving Eve, but holds off Tarleton State, 65-54

Paul Nasr
Special to the Detroit Free Press

Michigan basketball returned to Ann Arbor, looking to right the ship against Tarleton State, playing only its second season in Division I.

Despite forcing a barrage of turnovers and clawing back from a 16-point deficit to create a nail biter down the stretch, the Texans were unable to derail the Wolverines’ lukewarm season any further. 

Led by 15 points from Eli Brooks, Michigan (4-2) pulled away late for a 65-54 win on Wednesday at Crisler Center. Despite totaling 21 turnovers to the Texans’ 9, U-M shot 55%  and held Tarleton State to 34% from the field.

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Freshmen Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan found an offensive rhythm and scored 14 points each. Hunter Dickinson was swarmed in the post throughout, totaling nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists. 

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard talks with forward Moussa Diabate (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Turning over the ball, not the page

Michigan coach Juwan Howard complained of a disjoined U-M offense following its loss to Arizona on Sunday, and early in Wednesday's game, the struggles continued. 

This time, shooting wasn’t the culprit, ball control was. 

Through the first seven minutes of play, the Wolverines had eight turnovers and Tarleton’s State had none. By the halfway point of the first half, the Wolverines were shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, but barely held a slim 14-12 lead due to their plethora of turnovers.

Michigan found its stride down the stretch in the half, turning the ball over only once in the final 10 minutes. The Wolverines found separation in the final five minutes of the half. Following a high-arching teardrop layup by Tarleton State’s Montre Gipson to shrink Michigan’s lead to 21-20, the Wolverines responded with a forceful 10-0 run. 

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Frankie Collins and Brooks, followed by a clean post move leading to an easy two by Diabate secured a 31-22 lead and momentum for U-M entering the half. 

A tale of two halves

Tarleton State (1-5), however, hung around. Back-to-back 3-pointers from guard Tahj Small erased the memory of a 16-point Wolverine lead, bringing the score to 52-49 with six minutes left. Another 3 from Shakur Daniel brought it to 55-52 with 4:20 left, but the Wolverines were able to jostle back control from there. 

Tarleton State guard Shakur Daniel (13) is defended by Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Dunks from Dickinson and Diabate spurred a final run from Michigan to put the game away.  

U-M won't play again until Dec. 1 at North Carolina for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (9:15 p.m., ESPN).