The Wolverines' exhibition season came and went without yielding much of substance except the vague notion that everyone does look a little bit better and the highly touted freshmen performed as you would expect against such competition.
UMass-Lowell was not expected to provide the Wolverines much of an uptick in level of competition, but the game provided an extra sliver of meaning because it actually counted.
Michigan rolled out a starting five of Robinson III-Walton-Horford-Stauskas-LeVert (LeVert's second career start). The Wolverines jumped out to an 8-0 lead, while Lowell failed to hit from anywhere. Shortly after that, Derrick Walton pushed the ball down the floor at breakneck speed, only to stumble, fall, and get called for traveling, a play neatly encapsulating the trials of a freshman point guard.
Things slowed down quickly for the Wolverines; around 11 minutes in, John Beilein's squad was up just 11-8, having gone just 3-for-13 from the field. Early on, the Wolverines looked much more like the team it was against Wayne State than Concordia.
Michigan continued to struggle from the field. At one point, Nik Stauskas missed his second free throw of the first half, another sign that things were off-kilter. Fortunately for Michigan, frequent trips to the charity stripe allowed Michigan to stay in the lead in spite of the 5-for-19 start from the field.
Down 21-20 with 2:51 to go in the first half, the exultation of the raising of the Final Four banner quickly dissipated as the Wolverines looked to pull ahead of Lowell, who was playing its first Division I game.
Michigan called a timeout at the end of the half with the opportunity to take the last shot; unfortunately, that shot became a Jon Horford missed jumper from 16-17 feet. After a dreadful first half from the field, the Wolverines headed into the half tied at 23.
The two teams tied in points per possession as well with both squads going for 0.82 PPP. With Michigan unable to make shots from outside, it needed its transition game to save the day in the first half. However, Lowell was having none of it; Derrick Walton et al would need to find a way to beat that defense down the floor if the Wolverines were going to pull away early in the second half.
Lowell's Akeem Williams scored the first bucket of the second half, a layup after picking off a LeVert pass from the wing to the top of the key, an inauspicious start for a Wolverine squad failing to generate much of anything in transition or in the halfcourt.
Jon Horford turned in some inspired play, scoring four straight points and grabbing a nice board after Lowell had failed at a pair of putback attempts. The second Horford bucket revealed a glimpse of Horford's newfound ability to face up in the post and nail a mid-range jumper. Michigan won't call on Horford to do that a whole lot, especially once Mitch McGary returns, but it is an encouraging development for John Beilein's offense.
Michigan started to pull away, gaining a 32-25 lead while keeping Lowell off the board for over five minutes after the aforementioned Williams steal and score. The run eventually became an 18-0 run, as Michigan effectively dissected the Lowell defense in the paint for easy scores.
Up 40-25, the outcome was no longer in question. The first half was as ugly as things could get, but Michigan likely won't shoot that poorly very often. Nonetheless, tonight's game was a solid display of Michigan's resilience and ability to locate other avenues of scoring (albeit, again, against weak competition).
Levert, Robinson III and Zak Irvin led the Wolverines with 17, 15 and 10 points, respectively. Walton Jr. scored just six but notched four assists to one turnover, in addition to three steals. Jon Horford tallied 12 rebounds, another active game for the big man.
With the 69-42 victory, the Wolverines officially moved to 1-0 on the season. Michigan next takes the Crisler Center floor on Tuesday against South Carolina State (7;00 ET).