Though Michigan defeated Holy Cross by almost 20, it was not a convincing win by any means. The visitors led at the break, thanks to 50 percent shooting from deep, but it was the Wolverines offense that struggled the most. Thankfully, the team figured it out at halftime to start the season 2-0.
Head coach John Beilein again went with a seven-man rotation, which is probably tighter than he would have hoped. Isaiah Livers spent some time at the five, hauling in 10 rebounds with a couple blocks. This might not work against bigger teams, but it could be a path to more minutes for the sophomore this season
All about Iggy
Ignas Brazdeikis followed up his 12-point debut with an offensive explosion. He recorded 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and was easily Michigan’s best player on offense. The freshman stayed aggressive, leading the team with a 33.2 percent usage rate. He justified this with a 61 percent effective field goal rate, which also led the team.
Against smaller lineups, Brazdeikis is going to be a force. He showed ability to traverse the floor, and he can finish at the hoop. The forward split a pair of three-point attempts, but the Wolverines should be fine with limited looks from deep. While his usage rate will fall a bit, his excellent shooting efficiencies are an asset.
Finding a role
Though Brazdeikis had better numbers, it was Charles Matthews who led the team in points. Matthews had a 47 percent effective field goal rate, which is not awful, but like most of his teammates, he struggled from deep. Thankfully, he cleaned up his free throws from the first game and helped the Wolverines hit 81 percent.
The guard play was uninspiring, with Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Eli Brooks combining for five total points. Simpson did contribute seven assists to one turnover, however. Michigan sits at 16th in the country in assist rate, though this number would surely be even higher if anyone other than Brazdeikis and Matthews could make a shot.
Continuing to lean on the defense
It is not too controversial anymore to say this team will be carried by its defense. However, Beilein truly embraced this mantra against Holy Cross by making personnel decisions on that side of the floor. Specifically, the inclusion of Livers instead of Jon Teske or Austin Davis helped lock down a Crusaders offense which started off strong.
This led to offensive benefits as well, but defense is clearly the team’s calling card. Michigan allowed just .59 points per possession, which was even better than its effort in the first game. The competition has been weak, but there is a whole lot to like about what the Wolverines are doing on defense. Wednesday will provide a real test for the unit.
Three-point shooting stays absent
An awful 3-for-19 outing from deep puts Michigan’s season total at exactly 20 percent. This is definitely a small sample size, but it is frustrating to see the team struggle from behind the arc against lesser foes. Beilein may be transitioning to shutdown defense from lethal shooting, but there are still plenty of talented shooters who should be doing better.
Poole and Livers missed a combined seven attempts from deep, and Simpson, Teske and Brooks all ended with a 0.0 percent three-point percentage as well. The solution is unclear, as the looks have been decent and the ball is moving well. Something is bound to give, and hopefully it corrects itself soon.