Norfolk State didn’t score its first points until seven minutes and 16 seconds into the game.
By that point, it was far too late.
Sophomore guard Jordan Poole found Charles Matthews with a nifty wrap-around pass in the post, and the redshirt junior forward finished off the Michigan men’s basketball team’s second possession with its first two points. That was as close as the Wolverines’ season-opener would get, as they handily beat the overmatched Spartans (0-1), 63-44, on Tuesday night.
The night’s most eventful moments, in reality, took place before the game started and after it ended. Fifteen minutes before tip-off, the banners for Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament Championship and Final Four appearance last year were raised to the Crisler Center rafters.
And when the final buzzer sounded, it officially marked John Beilein’s 800th win across all levels of college basketball, and the Maize Rage unveiled another banner — this one congratulating the Wolverines’ coach on his accomplishment.
“It’s 800 wins, it will go with those other basketballs that are back there,” Beilein said. “But it was nice to have a poster and so many people congratulate you.”
Added sophomore forward Isaiah Livers: “He tried to overlook it and just celebrate our opening ‘W,’ but we didn’t let him go for that. He was trying to talk over us, we were like, ‘Congrats Coach!’ … But you know how Coach (Beilein) is. He likes to move forward and just do everything in a routine.”
Between those two events, Michigan (1-0) did what it was expected to do against Norfolk State, which went just 14-19 last season.
The Wolverines led 11-0 before the Spartans found the scoreboard, and just in case there was any momentum to be had from that, Livers and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis both canned corner 3-pointers to go up 15 midway through the half.
The Wolverines took a 27-5 lead after a Matthews steal and layup, but went cold for the rest of the first half, as the Spartans outscored them, 8-5, over the last six and a half minutes.
But despite the inability to buy a basket for stretches, Michigan was never in any danger, as its physical superiority was ultimately too much for Norfolk State to overcome.
Seven minutes into the second half, the Spartans’ C.J. Kelly scored to cut their deficit to 18. The Wolverines promptly went on a 15-4 run, punctuated by six points from Brazdeikis and a corner trey by sophomore guard Eli Brooks to cap off the run and put the game to bed with Michigan leading, 58-29.
Junior center Jon Teske was Michigan’s top performer, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds — four of them offensive — and four blocks. The Spartans don’t have a player within five inches of the 7-foot-1 Teske, and this disadvantage manifested itself down low. Norfolk State had no success under the basket with Teske patrolling and didn’t experience much more away from it, shooting just 31 percent from the field.
The Wolverines, however, were barely better, hitting just 22 of their 60 shot attempts, six of 26 3-pointers and a particularly hideous 13-for-29 figure from the free-throw line.
“If you look at our numbers in practice and everything, just not happening,” Beilein said. “We got to just continue to work at it, you can’t dwell on it too much.”
In the end, though, none of it would matter — at least on Tuesday night. As soon as Saturday, when Michigan will take on Holy Cross, that might change.
“I’m just proud that we were able to gut through,” Beilein said. “It was a bit of a mess at times, but we just kept gutting through and gutting through, and our kids will see on the film how much better we can be when we play a little bit more efficiently.”