The Michigan men’s basketball team doesn’t actually travel to Maui until this weekend, but the players figured they’d start heating up on Monday night.
The Wolverines opened up Maui Invitational play with “Maui on the Mainland,” and they were rolling early against Towson. No. 17 Michigan (2-0 overall) opened with a 21-0 run to start the game and tailored the hot start into a commanding 64-47 victory.
As many had expected, freshman point guard Trey Burke started for the first time in his career. Michigan coach John Beilein had originally planned to start Burke at the point in last Friday’s season opener, but he had a change in heart after Burke showed up late to a practice.
“It’s a lesson learned,” Burke said after Monday’s game. “No excuses. It won’t happen again — freshman mistake.”
Burke did not disappoint in his first opportunity, knocking down the first 3-pointer of his career less than two minutes into the game from the top of the key. He added another from the corner as the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half. Burke finished the game with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
“Now I just feel like I’m out there in a groove,” Burke said. “I’m the point guard, so basically my poise — the team feeds off of my poise.
“It was my first collegiate start — I was kind of nervous the first couple minutes, but not a scared nervous.”
Redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan got the nod at center, reclaiming his starting role from sophomore Jon Horford, who started for the exhibition and the season opener.
“We went two games with one look — we didn’t like the starts we were getting,” Beilein said. “Jordan had an exceptional week in practice. I think those areas won’t be defined for a while — what our rotation is. We’re looking for some consistency right now.”
Michigan feasted on the Tigers’ inexperience throughout the contest. Towson is one of just three Division-I schools to return no starters, and it showed on Monday. The Wolverines forced seven turnovers before the Tigers even scored a basket in the ninth minute of the contest.
The beginning of the second half started much the same way, as Towson turned the ball over four more times before scoring its first basket of the half. The Tigers finished the game with 21 turnovers.
The tide of the game did shift a bit later in the second half, though, as sloppy play led to Michigan turnovers and miscommunication on the defensive end. Towson actually outscored Michigan, 31-27, in that half.
“I’ll wait until I see the film, but I was not happy with anybody’s defense in the second half, that’s for sure,” Beilein said. “On the perimeter, (Towson senior forward Robert Nwankwo) there was just lighting us up, and we sat there and watched it.”
Michigan spread out its scoring effort effectively, as three players finished in double digits — Burke, junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr (15) and sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz (13).
Late in the game, Beilein had enough of a lead to experiment on the defensive end, so he put his fabled 1-3-1 zone to work. It immediately flustered the Towson offense, and Michigan forced a quick turnover and converted it into points on a Hardaway 3-pointer.
Beilein ran the 1-3-1 for less than a minute, but fans got their first look at a zone defense that the Wolverines will likely pepper in here and there this season.