Despite an inconsistent offensive performance in the first half, the Michigan men’s basketball team handily defeated Elon, 70-50, at home on Friday night behind strong defensive performances from senior center Jon Teske and senior guard Zavier Simpson.
Marred by fouls and apparent rhythm issues on offense, Michigan got off to a slow start, not scoring its first points until two minutes into the game despite a substantial size advantage on the Phoenix. The Wolverines did not take their first lead until five minutes had gone by, and they relinquished that lead just two minutes later. For much of the first half, the Wolverines’ shots did not fall, their offense as cold as the temperatures outside.
“It was just a little bit – we were stagnant,” said sophomore forward Colin Castleton. “It’s just moving the ball more, not just getting one pass and one shot. (Michigan coach Juwan Howard) wanted five or six passes. Just keep the ball moving, and we’ll find our energy.”
The defense kept Michigan in the game throughout the offensive woes. Teske and Castleton made the most of their sizeable height advantage, and Simpson and sophomore guard David DeJulius were tough matchups in the backcourt.
But something seemed to click for Michigan offensively around the eight-minute mark in the first half. The Wolverines took back their lead as DeJulius hit a jumper and Teske made a layup on a pass from Simpson thirty seconds later, putting Michigan back on top, 14-13.
From there, the Wolverines seized control of the pace of the game. On offense, their passes were sharper and their shooting cleaner; on defense, Simpson forced Elon into shots they couldn’t make, and the backcourt combined to force multiple shot-clock violations. Michigan was finally dominating the game the way it had been expected to from the start. Going into the half, leading 31-22, the Wolverines had what they had lacked for much of the first half: momentum.
“It’s just about being more aggressive in transition,” DeJulius said. “We’re not trying to make any home runs – we’re just trying to make singles and doubles.”
From there, they didn’t look back, as the defense continued to stifle the Phoenix and Michigan’s shots found net instead of rim. The Wolverines finally made as much of their size advantage on offense as they had been doing on defense, physically overpowering Elon and outscoring it, 39-28, in the second half.
Defensively, Michigan remained solid throughout the second half, holding the Phoenix to longer scoring droughts and forcing them into uncomfortable shots.
In the end, it wasn’t close.
But for a long time, it was closer than it maybe should’ve been.
“It was a competitive game, and it was supposed to be that way,” Howard said. “It was never supposed to be an easy game. We’re never going to have an easy game.”