Games one and two of the season presented two different stories for Michigan basketball. A near second half collapse against Appalachian State had fans experiencing deja vu, but the Wolverines were able to survive. After a close first half in the Creighton game, Juwan Howard couldn’t afford to let the same thing happen again. Instead, he made the necessary halftime adjustments as Michigan tightened up defensively and kept Creighton off the offensive glass. This allowed the Wolverines to control the last 20 minutes of play en route to an impressive early season win.
Elon comes into the contest with a 2-1 record. After some hot shooting in their first two games (44 percent from three), the Phoenix came back down to earth, only making three of their 30 three-point attempts in a loss to Georgia Tech. Michigan’s success on the defensive end of the floor will hinge on how well they can defend the perimeter.
What to Watch:
Stopping Marcus Sheffield: The grad transfer from Stanford is the man that makes the Elon offense go. The 6-foot-5 guard has stuffed the stat sheet so far for the Phoenix, averaging 15.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists through three games. It will be interesting to see who Howard will match up with him given the height difference between Sheffield, Zavier Simpson (6-foot-0), and Eli Brooks (6-foot-1). Sophomore Adrien Nunez could face the task, but his first half defensive struggles against Creighton don’t make him the obvious choice. David DeJulius stepped in and played good minutes off the bench for the Wolverines Tuesday. Replicating that performance would be a huge boost as Howard continues to mix and match his backcourts with Franz Wagner sidelined.
Dominating the Inside: After Tuesday’s lackluster rebounding performance, it will be important for the Wolverines to get back on track and crash the boards. Elon’s front court is severely undersized, giving plenty of opportunities for Michigan to correct these woes. In addition, Jon Teske should be able to continue his hot start to the season, scoring 17 points in each of the first two contests. His chemistry in the pick-and-roll with Simpson has looked effective thus far. Elon also had 10 shots blocked in their last contest, meaning Teske could have the chance to swat a few inside looks away.
Letting it Fly: So far into the season, it appears that Howard is more lenient in letting his guys shoot early in the shot clock and off of isolation looks. The Wolverines have made nine three-point shots in both of their games this season. Isaiah Livers has lived up to all the preseason hype and Eli Brooks’ stroke had looked good from deep so far. Elon is going to shoot a lot of three-pointers, hot or cold, so if Michigan can win this battle, they’ll be in good shape.
Elon reigns in a couple early three-pointers but Michigan dominates all the way on both ends of the floor. 84-56 Michigan.