Unfortunately, due to an early tipoff, I did not have a chance to catch this one, so this post will be short on actual viewing-derived substance. But, from what I have been able to read and gather, this one was not unlike Detroit's previous matchup against Oregon, in which they led at the half and were then simply overwhelmed in the second frame.
While this might not be an impressive win on paper, two straight games of very good starts for Detroit against two pretty good teams indicates that they might not be too bad of an opponent.
Nonetheless, Detroit played the Wolverines tough, partially aided by a 1-for-7 start from the field for Zak Irvin. Fortunately for Michigan, Irvin, as he is wont to do, kept on shooting -- he went 5-for-9 the rest of the way, including back-to-back triples to close the first half (Michigan went into the break down 28-27). He finished the game with 18 points, with a 4-for-10 mark from beyond the arc. The funny thing is, most players can shoot 40 percent from downtown and you'd call it a good night, but when it's Zak Irvin, it somehow feels lacking. This is, of course, a good thing. Even when he's off (and there will be nights when his shot is off during Big Ten play), he can dig his way out of it, shot by shot, funky motion and all.
Similarly, Detroit's Juwan Howard Jr. started 1-for-6 from the field, but finished with 24 points on 9-for-23 shooting. That's not particularly efficient (46% eFG%), but Michigan had trouble keeping him out of the points column, while guard Brendan Kearney scored 14 on 5-for-6 shooting, with a 3-for-4 mark from downtown. As the Wolverines saw with Hillsdale's Stedman Lowry and Kyle Cooper, sometimes guys are just on.
Sophomore point guard Derrick Walton set the tone early in the second, burying a triple to briefly give the Wolverines the lead. Detroit then produced six unanswered points, on a triple of their own from Kearney and a conventional three-point play from Howard Jr.
Then, one Caris LeVert took over.
The junior buried a triple, a layup, and an and-1 at the rim in the span of just over two minutes, given Michigan some breathing room. However, Howard Jr. and Kearney continued to hit from outside, keeping the Titans in the game despite the LeVert takeover. The two squads sat tied at 52 with 5:38 remaining.
Detroit hung around and hung around, but an 11-0 run thereafter broke the Titans' back, powered in part by a pair of Irvin treys.
From there, Detroit just didn't have enough to continue making it a game, and the Wolverines escaped with a 9-point victory to move to 3-0.
Again, there's not much I can offer tonight, but from a simple scan of the play-by-play, the Wolverines just did what they needed to do to get a win. When you think back to the early stages of last season, that resilience cannot be discounted, especially when you remember that early season loss to Charlotte and a UMass-Lowell game in which the Wolverines sat tied at the half, 23-23.
The Titans and Wolverines finished with an identical 14 assists to 11 turnovers, which is less than inspiring; but, you expect that to tighten up, and off games are expected, especially early in the season with so much youth (once again).
The Michigan offense finished with a mark of 1.13 points per possession; like Irvin's three-point shooting, that's a number that only looks "lacking" relative to precedent.
Michigan's backcourt is very clearly superb, and can match up against just about anybody out there. The question will continue to be, of course: What can Michigan get from the 4 and 5 spots? Tonight, the answer was not much, as Mark Donnal and Kameron Chatman went a combined 2-for-6 from the field, with Chatman going 0-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Interestingly, Max Bielfeldt once again was a major contributor, albeit not in the points column, this time. He went 2-for-3 from the field, but played 20 minutes compared to a total of seven minutes between freshmen forward D.J. Wilson and Ricky Doyle.
Perhaps that is simply a product of the closeness of the game, and thus a shortening of the bench with a disposition to lean on Bielfeldt's experience. Or, perhaps Bielfeldt will continue to be a serious contributor, contrary to the perception of his role heading into the season.
Time will tell, I suppose. But, for tonight, a win is a win. The Wolverines moved to 3-0 on the season, and will next head to Brooklyn to take on the Oregon Ducks, Detroit's last opponent. The competition level will take a significant step up, and Michigan will have to bring it if it is to avoid its first loss of the season.