New Michigan coach John Beilein has had to talk about his team a lot this off season; but Friday night his players starting doing the talking for him.
Beilein’s offensive system deserved all the hype it received leading up to the season’s first official game and the Wolverines cruised to an 82-55 victory Friday night at Crisler Arena.
“You have to go out and do it on the floor,” senior Ron Coleman said. “I think tonight we came out with a lot of energy and a lot of effort.”
Radford guard Martell McDuffy took the game’s opening tipoff and made an easy layup to open the game’s scoring and give the Highlanders a lead five seconds into the game. But it was the last time the Wolverines trailed.
Freshman Manny Harris found sophomore DeShawn Sims under the basket from the left wing and the 6-foot-8 forward made the two-handed dunk to tie the game.
Then Sims scored on the next possession off an offensive rebound to give the Wolverines the lead for good.
But the Detroit native was just getting started and over the game’s first four minutes, Sims scored 11 of the team’s first 13 points.
He finished the evening with a game-high 23 points.
“I think he came out determined to help us get this win tonight,” senior Ron Coleman said. “He came out and gave everyone else energy as well.”
As well as Sims played, his early performance was overshadowed by the play of freshman duo Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady. Both players provided the game’s most exciting play five minutes into the second half.
Grady picked up a loose ball under the basket and weaved through traffic to get to half court. From there he threaded the needle with a bounce pass that hit Harris in stride to the basket.
Harris’s two handed dunk was the exclamation point to a play that epitomizes the new era of Michigan basketball: one that involves a lot of running and points in transition.
“I see it every day,” Sims said of the freshman connection. “It’s nothing that surprises me. (For) them to come into the game and execute everything that they did in practice was impressive.”
Both players combined to score 24 points, but the most impressive stat was their eight assists to just one turnover.
With Beilein’s high risk, high reward style of play, it was an encouraging sign to the coach that the duo kept their mistakes to a minimum.
With the talk heading into the season opener surrounding the team’s offense, the defense also made a fine debut. The Wolverines forced a total of 19 turnovers, primarily using a 1-3-1 defensive set.
“That’s what we’ve been mostly focusing on, is defense,” Coleman said. “How can we guard and how can we do a good job with it. (But) I think a lot of guys are having fun playing defense. That’s something you really want from your team, guys coming out and having fun playing it.”
The Beilein honeymoon ends Sunday when the Wolverines (1-0) must refocus to take on Brown at noon.
The Bears defeated Eastern Michigan 74-55 Friday night.