Holding onto its season by a fingernail, Michigan went on the road and ran Northwestern out of the gym on Thursday night. The Wolverines gave up the first four points of the second half before rattling off an 18-2 run to take control and never look back.
The moment of the night came early in that run when Juwan Howard inserted Joey Baker into the game. Michigan’s season depends on Jett Howard’s growth as a college basketball player, turning his talent into winning production. That substitution and the ensuing run might just be the point where all parties realize what it’ll take for that growth to happen.
Howard struggled for most of the night and committed a poor turnover that led to a Northwestern run-out. He received a rare early seat on the bench and some instruction from Juwan Howard. Joey Baker checked into the game with 16:41 to play and scored 9 of his 14 points in his nine-minute shift on the floor.
Jett Howard watched most of it, cheering on the bench as the Wolverines played their best stretch of basketball in weeks.
Michigan needs Howard’s offensive upside, but it needs everything else too. It needs Howard to score within the flow of the offense, it needs its guards to make plays in the ball screen game, and it needs Hunter Dickinson to score on the block. For most of this season, it has managed to get maybe one or two things from that wish list.
If the ball sticks in Howard’s hands on the perimeter or the offense stagnates trying to force the ball into the post, those peripheral threats that make this team dangerous are lost in the wash.
Tonight, Howard needed a bit of coaching. And he needed to see that his teammates can get the job done too.