Apparently, good things do come in threes.
Senior Dion Harris knocked down three 3-pointers from three different spots on the floor in the first six minutes of Saturday’s game against Delaware State. His third triple of the sequence put Michigan ahead by three, and gave it a lead it never relinquished.
Three seniors finished in double figures for the Wolverines, and three starters hit 3-pointers within the first five minutes of the contest.
And senior Brent Petway defied the law of gravity three separate times on the way to his third double-double of the season and a 70-43 rout of the Hornets at Crisler Arena, the team’s third straight win.
Even the most impressive statistic of the game was dominated by the number mathematicians refer to as the first “lucky prime”: a 33.3-percent shooting percentage that the Hornets suffered through.
“I thought our defense in the second half was outstanding,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “We needed that. They’re a … ball-control team, and they use a lot of the shot clock, and that can frustrate you if you aren’t patient and disciplined on both ends of the floor.”
In what has become something of a post-game ritual for Amaker and his players, the defense was emphasized as the key to the victory. After a first half in which the Hornets shot 45 percent from the field, Michigan buckled down and forced its opponents into 6-of-26 shooting in the second half and just 17 points.
“He told us we had to hold them to 55 points (total),” Petway said. “He’s done that a couple times this year where he’s given us a point (total) that we’ve got to hold a team to coming into the second half. So that keeps us focused, because when you get up in a game and you’re at home, you might relax a little bit on defense.”
The Wolverines had no trouble relaxing on the offensive end in the first half. Michigan’s first six shots attempts came from 3-point land, and three different players (Harris, senior Lester Abram and junior Ron Coleman) combined to convert on all but one of those attempts.
Delaware State (2-8) then realized that the Wolverines were unlikely to miss from outside, and switched to a new pressure defense on Michigan’s guards, which opened up the game. Harris pump-faked on a three from the top of the key, and found freshman Ekpe Udoh unguarded under the basket for an easy lay-up to ignite a 13-2 run that put the game out of reach.
Several possessions later, after a rare Michigan (10-1) miss, Petway skied in for an offensive which he finished with a thunderous dunk. He soared so high that he nearly hit his head on the backboard after the slam.
“That first (dunk) was – amazing,” Udoh said.
Said Petway: “Our guards were hot today, and they were doing a great job of finding each other. Once those (3-pointers) start going in so much, the defense won’t even box out, they just look at the ball thinking it’s going to go in, and it’s easier to get in there (and rebound).”
It was the third straight game in which Michigan shot better than 40 percent from downtown. Harris has been the main producer in this effort, and he finished with a team-high 16 points, going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“It’s always good to get off to a good start like I did today, because I can relax even more if I know my shot is falling,” Harris said. “I felt like I was in a good rhythm.”
Petway and senior Courtney Sims each finished with 12 points for the Wolverines, and Petway added 10 rebounds.
Led by the consistent output of those seniors, the Wolverines have been untouchable on their home floor, where they are a perfect 9-0 this year. They were so dominant on Saturday that just three available players, junior walk-on David Merritt, sophomore Phil DeVries and freshman Kendric Price, didn’t see action.
But there are just three home games left for Michigan before the conference season begins, and the Wolverines want to make sure that they handle their business on their home floor before Big Ten season.
“We are trying to be undefeated at home first, and we want to take care of that so in March, we won’t be looking back and saying we should have gotten one,” Udoh said.