Just days away from the start of its new season, the No. 22 Michigan basketball team had a chance to measure its new lineup against someone other than itself in an exhibition against Ferris State. 

In a game that won’t count towards their record and against an inferior, Division-II Bulldogs team, the Wolverines handled their business. Although it took nearly the entire first half to completely overwhelm Ferris State, Michigan managed to experiment with multiple lineup combinations, rotating all 16 players into the game on its way to an 88-75 victory Friday night. 

“It was great to get an opportunity to allow everyone to play,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “There were many ball players on our team that did some nice, exciting things to affect the game in a winning way.”

Those game-winning moments were evident early, as the Wolverines led the entire game. Michigan, however, showed some growing pains defensively early, as the Bulldogs enjoyed plenty of good looks. But many of those looks — like a missed open dunk by forward Mykel Bingham — turned out to be harmless, as Ferris State opened the game shooting an abysmal 2-for-13 from the floor. 

So although the Bulldogs weren’t a dangerous opponent, the mere fact that they offered a different look after pre-season practice ensured the Wolverines would make mistakes and be forced to adjust.

“I feel like we have some things that we can clean up,” sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin said. “Obviously on the defensive end, for me personally, I feel like I got up on a couple shot fakes I shouldn’t have gotten up on. … It’s a work in progress and I feel like we get better every day.”

But despite the need for improvement, if Ferris State forgot that it isn’t on the same playing field as Michigan — like when it began to convert on its unexpectedly favorable chances to keep the game within four almost 11 minutes in — the Wolverines gave the Bulldogs a painful reminder. 

It was freshman wing Jett Howard who gave Ferris State perhaps the loudest reminder of all. The Bulldogs simply didn’t have an answer, as he scored again, and again and again, posting 14 points in the last four minutes of the first half alone, en route to a team-leading 30 points. 

To follow Jett’s message up, Kobe Bufkin served the Bulldogs another undeniable reminder to start the second half. 

A little over two minutes into the half, Bufkin stormed down the left side of the lane for a vicious, one-handed dunk over a helpless Ferris State defender that opened up the floodgates for a dominant second half as Michigan became too much to handle. 

“I was kind of tired, so I kind of trotted behind (graduate guard Jaelin Llewellyn) and then called out that I was trailing him,” Bufkin said of the moments leading up to the poster. “He just dropped it off (and) I saw the lane open up, and I wasn’t tired anymore.”

That added energy extended to the Wolverines’ supporting cast and emerging newcomers as they navigated the rest of the game. Despite being outscored in the second half, the game was never in question as players like freshman forwards Tarris Reed Jr. and Youssef Khayat got comfortable on the floor in their Wolverine debuts. And in a pre-season exhibition, that opportunity is invaluable. 

“This is just one game, and it was an exhibition game,” Juwan said. “It was great to get a game tonight, to see how we can improve.”

Contributors like Reed and Khayat, although not making a big splash on the stat sheet, highlighted that sentiment for Michigan. It was a chance for new players to get their first game-like action, for lineups to be tested, for early jitters to be shaken-out and to do it all without taking any risks.