As far as sporting events go, preseason exhibitions are amongst the most predictable. This one was no different.
The No. 19 Michigan men’s basketball team thumped Division II Northwood, 90-58, on Friday night in its lone exhibition game before Tuesday’s opener against Norfolk State. The Wolverines jumped out to an early lead, hitting seven of their first 10 field goals, and never looked back.
Michigan scored easily and efficiently, but did so without hitting its first 3-pointer until sophomore guard Eli Brooks canned one in transition with just under two minutes left in the first half.
For a John Beilein-coached team, that’s almost unheard of, but it’s a trade-off Michigan may make. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole was the only player in Friday’s starting lineup who shot above 32 percent from outside last season, a byproduct of Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson’s departures. Junior center Jon Teske did flash the ability to shoot from outside, putting in his first and only, 3-point attempt of the night.
“We don’t have the volume guys we had,” Beilein said. “Muhammad was never a volume guy — it took him years to acquire that trait. Duncan came out of the womb shooting, and Moe did as well. None of these guys that we have, except Jordan Poole probably, had that mentality walking in.”
Michigan got inside with ease, shooting 61.7 percent from the field with 56 points in the paint, an effort led by freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis. The Lithuanian-Canadian threw down a transition dunk for his first points and later flashed the ability to finish with ease, smoothly going to his left for an and-1 layup to put the Wolverines up 17-10.
Brazdeikis, who started ahead of sophomore Isaiah Livers, stood out with 11 first half points on 5-of-6 shooting, ultimately finishing with 13, tied with redshirt junior Charles Matthews for the team lead. Poole and Livers stuffed the statsheet, as the former finished with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds; the latter with 12 points and eight rebounds.
“We went through most of our preseason — Isaiah Livers was not able to practice a lot,” Beilein said. “So we got into a rhythm, and then all the sudden he was there for like one week beforehand. We just stuck with him. … Isaiah is a team guy and he’ll fill that (sixth-man) role well.”
By halftime, the outcome was all but decided, as Michigan held a 41-26 lead, pulling away after the with a 12-0 run punctuated by a transition dunk from sophomore guard Jordan Poole off his own steal after the Timberwolves tied the game at eight.
Early in second half, the Wolverines pulled away for good. Matthews tossed a lob to Livers for Michigan’s first points of the frame, then threw down a dunk of his own less than a minute later, extending the lead to 45-29. The Wolverines rolled from there. Livers notched another transition dunk — this one from junior guard Zavier Simpson — three minutes later, putting the margin at 22.
Defensively, it doesn’t seem Michigan has lost a step from last season, finishing third in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency. The Wolverines held Northwood to just .806 points per possession, forcing 16 turnovers just a day after Beilein lambasted their performance at an open practice.
“We knew it was more like of a game, I guess the situation,” Poole said. “How we played tonight, we came prepared to play, like ready to play real defense in a game.”
This was supposed to be a tune-up, and that’s what it was. On Tuesday, the real thing begins.