EA Sports is not known for its basketball. Of the EA Sports video game family, their basketball games are probably the weakest. But they field a real basketball team too, and it was that team that gave Michigan its first test of the season in yesterday”s exhibition. Exhibition or regular season, video game or real live men, the Wolverines were interested in the win.
“Never underestimate the habit of winning,” has become an early mantra of head coach Tommy Amaker. Michigan got the win, 94-68, on the strength of a phenomenal shooting day by junior guard Gavin Groninger.
Groninger, who is never hesitant to pull the trigger on 3-pointers, shot 7-of-11 from 3-point land and 9-of-14 overall, finishing the game with 29 points. He was helped offensively by senior captain Leon Jones, whose 19 points and nine rebounds picked up the slack of three key players who spent their day on the bench.
LaVell Blanchard sat down after just six minutes when he re-aggravated his ankle, which was injured last week during practice. He should practice today and for the rest of the week.
Bernard Robinson sat due to a violation of team rules. He will practice this week, and will likely play in next weekend”s exhibition.
Josh Moore is still nursing his back, which has been giving him problems all preseason.
But with those three on the bench, Groninger, who shot 5-of-5 in the second half from behind the arc, emerged as the star.
“My shots have been falling in practice and I”ve been putting in a lot of time,” Groninger said. “I missed my first three threes and coach Amaker told me to keep shooting it.”
While Groninger was the highlight for the Wolverines from the outside, the inside game was not where it needs to be. Senior Chris Young offered his usual solid game, highlighted by his 15 points and three blocks. But point guards Avery Queen and Mike Gotfredson had a difficult time getting the ball down low.
Young was helped by 6-foot-7 freshman Chuck Bailey. He posted seven boards and nine points in 20 minutes.
“He brought in incredible energy,” Young said of Bailey. “He was just everywhere, doing everything he needed to do. A couple of times I was really surprised by the things he was able to do.”
While just an exhibition win, there are still positives to take away. Both Amaker and his players were pleased to see that the things they have been working on in practice offense from defense, fast breaks are being used effectively on the floor.
“They played very well,” LaVell Blanchard said of his teammates, “I was just happy to get a win. I don”t care if its exhibition or street ball A win”s a win.”