DETROIT — Jon Teske was in uncharted territory.
With Moritz Wagner sidelined due to an ankle sprain, Teske was given his first career starting nod for the Michigan men’s basketball team in its Saturday matchup against Detroit Mercy.
It may have been the sophomore center’s first start, but his stat line was a familiar one.
Teske overpowered the Titans down low for 15 points and 10 boards in a career-high 28 minutes, earning his second double-double of the season during Michigan’s 90-58 rout over Detroit Mercy (4-7) in the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase.
The 7-foot-2 sophomore made his money on clean-up duty for the Wolverines (10-3), converting multiple putback and dunk opportunities and creating second-chance points on tap outs. His massive frame also helped Michigan’s staunch defensive effort. The Titans were limited to an abysmal 17-for-51 shooting display and tallied 20 turnovers in the game.
“Our effort level and our focus on that has been huge these past couple games,” said fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson. “Seeing that success and having some success watching the opponent’s field goal percentage go down is encouraging. We want to continue to build off that.”
Teske had to adjust to the reality that he would be the starting ‘5’, but the help of Wagner elevated his game.
“I knew this morning when coach told me,” Teske said. “My mindset didn’t change: just go in there and help the team win. … (Wagner)’s helped me a lot. Always talking, looking to improve my game. And definitely when he’s on the bench, he sees things that I don’t sometimes see on the court. He’s always by my side and helping me.”
Teske and the game’s leading scorer, Charles Matthews, certainly picked up the bulk of the missed production from Wagner’s absence, though. Matthews added 20 points and and seven boards on 8-for-16 shooting.
It was business as usual for Matthews, but both he and Teske can ultimately thank the recent offensive breakout from sophomore point guard Zavier Simpson for that. Simpson has scored in the double digits in two of his past three games. Saturday, it took him less than a half to get to 10 points and post his second-highest assist total. In a nine-scoring possession stretch for Michigan in the first half, Simpson scored or assisted on eight of them. He finished with 12 points, seven assists and five boards. He also earned more minutes than starting point guard Eli Brooks for the fourth straight game, 19 to 14.
The bench made several contributions for the Wolverines as well. Redshirt freshman center Austin Davis saw his first game action since Nov. 29 at North Carolina, contributing four points before fouling out. Jaaron Simmons and Ibi Watson — who have also struggled to earn playing time — combined for 10 points and three assists.
The most welcoming scene of the game, though, was the reemergence of Duncan Robinson’s offense. The fifth-year senior shot just 7-for-34 in his past five games. Against Detroit Mercy, while also battling with Laryngitis, he flipped the switch in a 4-for-5 performance to snap his cold streak.
“It makes a big difference for us when he can do that,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “I see it in practice, he hasn’t had an off day in practice yet. He just had four, five games that were not typical of him. As I always say, he’ll go back to the norm. He was 42 percent last year … what people wouldn’t realize is that he gives us so much space on the floor and people haven’t left him for three years now.”
Saturday’s matchup was a stark contrast compared to Tuesday’s contest at Texas. Instead of a battle of bulwarks, the Wolverines nearly matched their 59 point total against the Longhorns by halftime, taking a 54-19 advantage over Detroit Mercy into the break and never looking back. After Michigan’s tough non-conference stretch, the lopsided win surely inspired confidence for a team playing without their focal point in Wagner.