It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the Michigan Wolverines took care of business against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, winning 83-66 and improving to 6-5 on the season.
This was Juwan Howard’s first game as head coach this season, after fully recovering from heart surgery in September. Athletic Director Warde Manuel also said in a statement last night that determined that no punishment would be required following the incident with Howard and head strength & conditioning coach Jon Sanderson last week.
Here are the takeaways from the win
Michigan takes care of business against a team they should beat handily
This was a classic game where Michigan had to make their own energy; they were playing a MAC school picked to finish 11th in the preseason coaches poll and with the semester being over for Michigan students, there wasn’t as big of a crowd as normal for this one.
We’ve seen the Wolverines struggle in games like this in the past: in their two games against MAC schools last season, they needed OT to beat Ohio and lost to Central Michigan in one of the uglier losses in the Juwan Howard coaching era.
The Eagles hung around for portions of the first half, and cut Michigan’s lead to in the second half, largely thanks to an impressive game from Tyson Acuff, who led all players with 24 points in this one.
Nonetheless, 10 was the closest EMU cut it to in that second half, as with balanced scoring and stellar three-point shooting, U-M kept the Eagles at an arms-length with a 10-15 lead to coast to victory. Let’s expand on that offensive impact.
Balanced scoring yet again
Much like we saw in the win over Iowa, the Wolverines had a balanced scoring attack in this game.
Olivier led the Wolverines with 17 points, including this sick alley-oop from Tray Jackson off the out-of-bounds play. He was one of five Michigan players to score in double figures.
The Wolverines utilized good ball movement to get good shots in this win, and they capitalized on those open looks.
A good day from beyond the arc
The Wolverines shot the lights out in the first half of this one, especially in the first half, making 47.1 percent (8/17) of their attempts from deep in the first 20 minutes.
They kept shooting at basically that same clip in the second half, making 44.4 percent of their three-point shots on the game. Nimari Burnett (14 points, three assists), Terrance Williams II (13 points, three rebounds) and Dug McDaniel combined to make nine threes in this one.
EMU is a team that Michigan should beat handily, but when you shoot as well as Michigan did in this one, you can beat a lot of good teams in college basketball.
After sitting out against Iowa for knee soreness, grad student Jaelin Llewellyn returned to the rotation in this one and played relatively well.
His counting stats don’t exactly pop off the page (three points, two assists, one rebound in 16 minutes), but he played his role well. I did love how Michigan’s offense looked when him and McDaniel shared the floor in the second half; you give up some size in that backcourt defensively, but I loved how that pair was able to move the ball and create open shots, which helped expand Michigan’s lead in that second half.
Llewellyn gives the Wolverines a reliable eight-man rotation, which is going to be helpful for the Wolverines in Big Ten play.
Foul trouble forces funky lineups
Burnett and McDaniel finished the game with four fouls each, and because of that foul trouble, we saw some funky lineups from the Wolverines.
Michigan has gone with the Jaelin Llewellyn, three power forwards and a center lineup.— Clayton Sayfie (@CSayf23) December 16, 2023
Foul trouble is bound to happen in any backcourt, and the Wolverines were able to whether the storm in this one. That said, rolling with one true guard for extended periods of time is not going to be something Michigan should make a habit of.
Reliable guards who come off the bench are so valuable in college basketball for this very reason. Llewellyn has been solid in limited minutes since his return, and hopefully, George Washington III is able to develop as the year goes along, earn more trust from the coaching staff, and become another reliable guard for the Wolverines.
A change to the usual starting lineup
For the first time this season, Will Tschetter started at center for the Wolverines, with Tarris Reed Jr. getting moved to the bench. Reed had his best game of the season in the win over Iowa, but Tschetter’s consistent improvements and hot shooting start has helped him earn his way back into the starting five.
It should be noted that Reed started the second half, and played relatively well in this one too, scoring 13 points, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds and recording two blocks and two steals. He continues to be one of the best defenders on this Michigan team, with effort plays like this being a big reason why.
Reed and Tschetter offer the Wolverines different looks at the five-spot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep mixing up who starts against who based on the match-up.
The Wolverines have one more game before the Holidays, as they’ll travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, to take on Florida as part of the Jumpman Invitational. That game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.