For fans who can’t make it to Hawaii next week to catch Michigan in the Maui Invitational — and everything else the tropical island has to offer — don’t worry.
Making the trek to Monday’s Maui on the Mainland contest between the Wolverines and Towson is the next best thing, and the travel is significantly less strenuous. Maui on the Mainland is the tournament’s precursor between teams that will play next week in Maui and mid-major programs, but even if the Tigers win, they won’t earn a bid to Hawaii. Ok, so Ann Arbor isn’t all beaches and palm trees, but the weather will be nice — inside Crisler Arena.
Michigan (1-0) will look to continue its stellar defense against the Tigers, who don’t appear anymore threatening than Wayne State or Ferris State, Michigan’s first two opponents. Including the exhibition, Michigan hasn’t allowed 40 points in either of its two contests, holding the Bulldogs to a meager 28 percent shooting last Friday.
“That’s our main focus,” said redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan. “We want to get easy shots and we obviously practice our offense, but we spend a lot of time on defense. That’s how we start practice. We feel (that) offense can win us games at times, but we want to win championships.”
Towson (0-1) is coming off a set of embarrassing losses. It lost an exhibition game to Division-II Virginia State last week, and on Friday lost its season opener at Kansas, 100-54.
If No. 18 Michigan wants to hand the Tigers another lopsided loss, the Wolverines need to find their shooting touch, something they haven’t found so far. After knocking down its first three 3-pointers against Ferris State, Michigan went cold, missing 12 of its next 13 shots from behind the arc to round out the first half. The team found its touch in the second half, going 5-for-11 from long range.
“Just keep on running the offense and shots will come,” said sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “You’ve just got to trust the offense, (Michigan coach John) Beilein always says. Don’t hunt for shots, just let the game come to you.”
The Wolverines’ hottest shooter, senior guard Stu Douglass, was one of the lone bright spots on the struggling offense. Douglass knocked down three 3-pointers while shooting 50 percent from the field, leading Michigan with 14 points. Douglass, who also added four assists as the starting point guard, wasn’t supposed to start until freshman guard Trey Burke showed up late to a shootaround earlier Friday afternoon.
The veteran Douglass took advantage of Burke’s slip-up to use it as a teaching moment.
“Especially from my standpoint, I’ve had plenty of those,” Douglass said, laughing. “It’s something you can pass along and I told him on the bench, even during the game, ‘Coach is going to yell at you. Coach is going to get into you.’ Because, especially as a young guy who’s going to play big minutes, going to be a key aspect to this team, he’s got to take that responsibility and really take it upon himself to do the right thing every time.
“It’s tough though. You come into college and you’re worried about playing basketball, you’re worried about all these grades and classes and stuff, and being late sometimes, it almost just slips your mind. … It’s nothing we haven’t all done before.”
Following Friday’s game, Beilein wouldn’t commit to reinserting Burke into the starting lineup, but Burke is listed in Monday’s game notes as the starter.
“Let me evaluate what we’ll do, but he’s been playing very well,” Beilein said. “We’ve had a freshman involved in one of those situations just about every year we’ve been here. So it just happens.”
While Burke’s issue can be written off as a matter of inexperience and adjusting to college, Michigan’s struggles in the paint are more concerning.
After the Wolverines were outrebounded in their exhibition win over the Warriors, Ferris State collected nine offensive rebounds and matched Michigan’s 39 rebounds while holding starting sophomore forward Jon Horford scoreless.
But if the outside shooting remains streaky, the Wolverines know that if the game turns into a defensive battle, they’ll have the upper hand.
“You don’t want to get frustrated about (the shots not going in) because we got a lot of good looks, open shots, so you just — you keep shooting them because our shooters are able to make those shots,” Morgan said.
“Those are the times we really have to focus on our defense and that’s what we did. We focused on our defense when our shots weren’t falling and like I said, it helped us get in a rhythm by getting easy shots out on the break.”