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Career day from Kobe Bufkin caps Michigan basketball guard's ...


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On the final play of regulation, Kobe Bufkin’s responsibility was to be a distraction. As Terrance Williams II looked to inbound, the sophomore guard curled around a screen into the lane, then camped in the far corner. 

Like the rest of those at the Crisler Center, all he could do was watch as Hunter Dickinson hoisted the shot that would force overtime against Wisconsin. But over his other 42 minutes of action on Sunday, Bufkin dominated. 

The former top-50 prospect finished with a career-high 28 points, adding eight rebounds, two assists and two steals to help guide the Michigan men’s basketball team to a necessary victory against the Badgers. 

It capped the best month of his college career: Bufkin scored in double figures in the Wolverines’ eight February games, shooting 54.2% from the field, including 48.4% from deep, while being near automatic (88.9%) from the free throw line and a presence on the boards. 

All of that was on display Sunday afternoon, but perhaps no moment was more emblematic of his growth than a two-possession sequence midway through the overtime period. It began with Bufkin attacking Max Klesmit off the dribble, rejecting a Dickinson ball screen and getting to the basket to score through two defenders and contact. 

The and-1 free throw gave Michigan the lead for good, and Bufkin made sure of it. On the ensuing defensive sequence, he boxed out Tyler Wahl, then skied for the loose rebound over Connor Essegian.

“He's just being super aggressive getting downhill,” Dickinson said. “I draw so much attention in the pick-and-roll. Bigs aren't really helping too much. And so if he just sweeps in and as aggressive, he's got a lot of good chances to score. He's been really aggressive. He makes crazy shots all the time, just look at the Michigan State one. I think he's really coming into his own out there offensively, but also defensively. He's one of our best defenders for sure. 

A minute later, Bufkin’s partner in the backcourt, freshman Dug McDaniel, blew by his defender for a layup to pad the lead to five. 

“We’ve grown a lot,” McDaniel said of the two guards. “We had a lot of convos before the game — limit our turnovers combined. Everything we do, we combine it together. I don’t talk about my individual stats — we talk about us as a whole. Before every game, we say ‘No turnovers. No turnovers.’ Before overtime, we made it a point of emphasis to take care of the ball. And we did.” 

For Bufkin, that growth began in the offseason in the literal sense. He added 20 pounds to his frame from a season ago, staying in Ann Arbor to work “Camp Sanderson” and challenge himself one-on-one against Emoni Bates. 

And he has improved throughout his sophomore season — particularly in February, when he posted offensive ratings above 100 in every contest. Sunday, he enjoyed his highest usage percentage of the season (31.1%), including being the primary option on Michigan’s first two plays in the final seconds of regulation. 

“Attention to detail,” Bufkin said of his sophomore leap. “Obviously, I came behind a very good senior guard in Eli. Taking things that he’s taught me and continue to listen to Coach Juwan.”

That has Bufkin and Michigan playing their best basketball as the calendar turns to March, with three straight wins putting the Wolverines back on the bubble in the closing stretch.

Story photo by Marc-Grégor Campredon /

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