Coming into this weekend’s exhibition against Wayne State, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker was hoping to answer some questions about his young Wolverines. Instead, he found out he has to add to the laundry list of problems his team needs to work on.
The Wolverines came out flat against the Warriors and trailed the Division II team by as many as nine points in the first half. Eventually, Michigan took the lead and finished off Wayne State, 79-68. But the Wolverines led by as few as five points with less than seven minutes remaining, failing to pull away from the Warriors.
Amaker refused to make excuses for the way his team played. In his opening statement to the media, he made his displeasure with his team’s performance clear.
“Certainly it was not a very pretty performance by our ballclub,” Amaker said. “I didn’t think we played very close to what we’re capable of and we didn’t resemble the way we’ve been practicing.”
Michigan committed 24 turnovers on the night, seven of which came from point guards Avery Queen and Daniel Horton. Turnovers were a major problem for the Wolverines last year. After committing 16 turnovers in last year’s exhibition opener, they barely improved that number, averaging 14.2 per game.
Queen, who started the game over the freshman Horton, split time at that position throughout the first half. But Queen led the team for the majority of the second half, playing 26 minutes total, as Horton showed his inexperience and looked shaky at times.
The Wolverines were weak on the defensive boards, allowing the undersized Warriors to grab 21 rebounds and score 36 points inside the paint.
“I was not pleased with our ability to keep them off the backboard, and the 24 turnovers is too many turnovers for a team to have any chance of being successful,” Amaker said. “We have a lot to work on. I thought Wayne State did everything necessary to put us in position to lose the game.”
The Wolverines also struggled to finish on the fast break all night, blowing many opportunities for easy transition baskets because of mistimed passes.
One of the bright spots for the Wolverines was the play of freshman guard Lester Abram. Abram and center Chris Hunter were the only freshmen to start the game for the Wolverines. Abram, en route to 13 points and seven rebounds, displayed the athleticism and ability to drive to the basket that he is known for.
“Abram gives (Michigan) a great deal of versatility,” Wayne State coach David Greer said. “He is the type of kid who can impact a game and not even score a basket.
“Lester is a winner. Anytime you are a two time state champion you are going to know how to win.”
Michigan’s other starters, Blanchard and junior Bernard Robinson, led the Wolverines with 18 points apiece and ripped down nine and seven rebounds, respectively. Both clearly appeared to show the confidence and control of upperclassmen as they combined to go 13-for-24 from the field.
With a little more than seven minutes remaining in the first half, Dommanic Ingerson and Wayne State’s Kendall Lesure collided when going for a rebound, sending both players to the floor.
Ingerson walked off under his own strength but would not return. After the game, Amaker said the sophomore had just banged up his knee and that he did not think it was serious.