ANN ARBOR – After weeks of blowouts and a gut-wrenching road scalp at Northwestern, Michigan was due for a sluggish Saturday,
South Carolina (4-5) entered with a scuffling offense, but proceeded to dissect the top-ranked efficiency defense in the nation.
Behind Jordan Poole and four others hitting double figures, the offense picked up the slack in an 89-78 victory at Crisler Center.
The Wolverines (10-0, 2-0) managed 42 points in the first half despite 11 turnovers, utilizing a different formula than usual for a Beilein outfit: rebounding and free throws.
Jon Teske nearly grabbed a double-double with nine rebounds (to go with 15 points), while Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis chipped in six caroms each. The hosts outboard the visitors 22 to 10 in the first 20 minutes.
Constant drives by Brazdeikis got the Gamecocks in the bonus in the first eight minutes. The Canadian freshman scored 11 of his 17 points from the charity stripe.
“He’s getting to the foul line a lot,” John Beilein said. “That was a difference in the game – getting them in the double bonus early.”
Michigan needed all of it against an uncharacteristic barrage from the same offense that scuffled against the likes of Wyoming and Wofford. Frank Martin’s squad lit it up from the field, making over 51 percent from the field.
“The game was really close,” Beilein said, “because they shot the ball well.”
The 36-point outburst by the Gamecocks in the first half was the most allowed by the Wolverines in a half all season. They also were the first team to score over a point per possession on the year with 1.1.
Forward Maik Kotsar bullied Brazdeikis inside for 16 points, while Chris Silva scored many of his 18 points on a slower Austin Davis.
“(Iggy) is still making some glaring, freshman mistakes,” Beilein said. “He didn’t switch on a screen (on Kotsar).”
He commented that Davis’ biggest problem was still game speed, as he couldn’t keep up with Silva on the floor.
“We have to get better,” Beilein said, “at helping Jon (Teske) in the post.”
The defensive lapses led to a 21-18 deficit with under 10 in the half. Matthews (12 points) scored on a putback to close the gap to one, and then Livers stole the lead back with a trey from the wing.
Splitting time between the four and the five, Livers contributed 12 points. Poole led all scorers with 26, and started stretching the lead — and the defense.
“Poole is good,” Martin said. “He’s a hard shot maker.”
He’s also adept at drawing fouls on threes. He got hacked in the first half, leading to two out of three made freebies to boost the lead to 36-29. It’s the third drawn foul behind the arc in the span of two games.
He drained another and later broke free for a fast break flush to push the lead to double-digits. Martin was forced to call a timeout, but his defense wouldn’t allow the offense to catch up.
The Michigan offense ended up with 1.25 points per possession against the nation’s No. 46 efficiency defense.
It left Martin in awe of the hosts, declaring them “national title contenders.”
Martin specifically praising Beilein's player development. Stopped Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske during prep and said they looked completely different than two years ago.— Sam Dodge (@samgododge) December 8, 2018
"(Coach Beilein) doesn't get the credit he deserves for player development."
Michigan returns to Crisler in a week to face Western Michigan (2 p.m. ET, BTN). Beilein stressed reps and rest to deepen his rotation for conference play, including Brandon Johns and David DeJulius.
“We’re going to be as ready as we can be to lengthen (our rotation).”