If there”s one person associated with IUPU-Fort Wayne”s basketball team who can”t be blamed for the Mastodons” 91-62 loss to Michigan last night, it”s the coach who scouted the Wolverines.
Before the game, Fort Wayne preached a need to take care of the ball, control the tempo and “rebound at a championship level.” So at least one person was prepared.
The Mastodons met few of their goals last night, and a Michigan team that played an above-average game was able to run away with the 29-point win.
“We”re very pleased with our effort for 40 minutes,” said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, who upped his record at Crisler Arena to 3-1. “I thought we played well against a dangerous team,”
On a three-game losing streak, the 3-3 Wolverines were looking to last night”s matchup with IUPU-Fort Wayne as an opportunity to get back on track.
Against a Fort Wayne team that came in 0-6 and was playing just its seventh game as a Division I program, Michigan”s sluggish play in the first half was still good enough. Relying on 16 Fort Wayne turnovers and 30 chances from the free-throw line, Michigan sent the Mastodons home with a seventh loss.
The Wolverines, who have had problems all season holding onto the ball, gave it up just nine times, their lowest number of turnovers this season. Much of the credit belonged to Avery Queen and Bernard Robinson two players often accused of being turnover-prone who gave it up just three times combined.
“We had to take care of (the ball),” Amaker said, “and I think we did that. And a lot of that had to do with Avery.”
On the other side of the court, Fort Wayne coach Doug Noll knew that turnovers cost his squad any chance at the upset win.
“They were all unforced,” he said. “Sometimes, this team just amazes me.”
Michigan was led all game by senior center Chris Young, who set a career-high with 22 points. Young”s previous high was 19 points, which he tallied against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 30 of last year. Young”s presence in the paint made Fort Wayne”s Baboucarr Njie miserable, as the Mastodons” center fouled out late in the game with no points and six rebounds.
“My teammates are looking to me on every possession,” Young said. “When I get the ball I”m being patient with it and if I”ve got to kick it out, I”ll kick it out and if I have to move, I”ll make my move. It”s just confidence in my game.”
“There”s no one more valuable to our team than Chris,” Amaker said. The coach was pleased by Young”s points, but more impressed with his 10 rebounds and 4-for-5 clip from the charity stripe.
Fort Wayne made Michigan work in the first half, which ended with Michigan up 44-34. With three minutes left in the half, Michigan was up just three. The Wolverines took over the lead for the first time 7:27 into the game.
“We had a good chance to go in close at halftime,” Noll said. “And we allowed them to make a spurt.”
Fort Wayne senior Nick Wise kept the Wolverines in check early, but wasn”t effective later in the game. He scored his team”s first nine points, but finished the game with just 13.
“He”s our go-to-guy, and when he”s going you”ve got to get him the ball,” Noll said.
“We weren”t necessarily disappointed with the first half because we thought we could do a lot better,” said Robinson, whom Amaker credited with giving the Wolverines a shot in the arm in the first half with his 14 points and five boards. The sophomore finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds.
In the second half, Michigan took over. The Wolverines went to the line 18 times in the half and connected on 12. For the game, Michigan nailed 22 free throws, compared to Fort Wayne”s 12.
Over the final 20 minutes, Brad Noll and Jeremy King kept the Mastadons moving, but Michigan moved about five steps faster.