UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The first half of Sunday’s game started and ended the same way: junior center Jon Teske catching Providence’s defense napping and throwing down an easy dunk.
That set the tone for the rest of the game. Though it was close at the beginning, the No. 18 Michigan men’s basketball team (5-0 overall) took control and never relented in a 66-47 win over the Friars (3-2) in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament.
The Wolverines got out to an early lead after Teske’s dunk. Twice, freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis received long passes from junior guard Zavier Simpson and dunked them in on the fast break. The second time, he hung on the rim for a few seconds, savoring the moment as he let the ball roll down his body.
Providence temporarily grabbed the momentum with a 6-0 run, punctuated by a deep 3-pointer from Maliek White, to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 21-20. But that was the closest the Friars got.
On the following possession, Teske hit a pick-and-pop three — the first of his career — to keep Michigan in the lead with 3:49 remaining in the half. From there, the Wolverines capped off a 14-2 run with Teske’s second dunk to extend the lead to 35-22 at halftime.
“At the end of the first half, we just wanted to come to the locker room excited and ready for the second half,” Brazdeikis said. “They went on their run, I feel like towards the end of that first half, so then we just bounced back.”
Both teams played chippy — combining for four fouls in the first two minutes of the second half. Providence was able to take advantage early in the second half by grabbing extra possession, but sophomore forward Isaiah Livers made back-to-back 3-pointers to keep Michigan’s lead comfortable.
And the Wolverines’ stifling defense helped extinguish any hope of a comeback. The Friars shot just 28.1 percent on field goals, while Michigan grabbed 28 defensive rebounds.
Michigan ran its offense through Brazdeikis and Teske — who finished with 20 and 17 points, respectively. The rest of the team struggled to score, which ultimately kept the game from being a blowout. Simpson and redshirt junior Charles Matthews — both of whom scored in double digits Saturday — failed to get anything going offensively, combining for just 11 points. But even when that happened, Teske and Brazdeikis were there to grab a board or tip the ball in off the glass — and that was when they weren’t dunking. Teske had three dunks and Brazdeikis, two.
With their flashy moves and an assist from the defense, the outcome was never in doubt.
“Everyone can play on our team. It's not gonna be one person that's gonna be the best player on the court every day,” Brazdeikis said. “It's gonna be, one day (Simpson), one day Jon, one day Charles and it always switches cause we all split the ball, so it's just about being effective in other ways and our team is just so talented that we all just click.”
Added Michigan coach John Beilein: “That's always gonna be our mindset going in. We're gonna take what people give us.”