The Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team squeaked by in its final nonconference game against the Furman Paladins, as it won 68-62 Thursday night. Michigan was led by center Moritz Wagner who had 13 of his 18 points in the first half.
The Wolverines (10-3) gave head coach John Beilein his 750th win of his career, 492 as a Division I coach, with their third straight win.
Furman, who now sit 7-6 on the season, gave Michigan all it could handle for 40 minutes. There were 12 lead changes in the game and eight ties. This was the Paladins’ best outing against a Big Ten since defeating Illinois back in 1975.
With 24.9 seconds left in the game, Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. knocked in a 3-pointer, which gave the Wolverines a comfortable six-point lead to seal the victory. He scored eight of his 11 points in the second-half. Michigan also got a big contribution from guard Zak Irvin, who netted 16 points for the maize and blue.
After Michigan led 31-25 at halftime, Furman opened the last 20 minutes on an 11-0 run. The Wolverines didn’t score their first second-half points until 4 1⁄2 minutes into it.
The Paladins were led by the trio of Devin Sibley, Matt Rafferty and John Davis who tallied 14, 12 and 10 points respectively.
What does this mean for Michigan heading into Big Ten Play?
Through 13 games this season, the maize and blue have been reliant on Irvin and Walton to do the bulk of the scoring. While that worked against 10 teams so far this season, that sort of strategy won’t cut it against the likes of Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin and so on. Michigan needs other players to step up.
However, the Wolverines have been getting solid production out of Wagner as of late. He was shooting 75 percent in his previous six outings. Plus he has scored 18-plus points three times this season.
Although, for Michigan, its a strong positive to see Wagner coming into his own, they need somebody else to step up with. Other post play D.J. Wilson has had strong games this year. However, he needs to consistently produce. If he or someone else can emerge during the Big Ten portion of the Wolverines’ schedule, the maize and blue can morph into a legitimate contender for the conference crown.