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Michigan Basketball suffocates Norfolk State in season opener (w/ takeaways)

It was not pretty at times, but it was more of the same hard-nosed defense.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Michigan vs Iowa Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Men’s Basketball (1-0) made its 2018-19 regular season debut on Tuesday night at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor and walked out with a 63-44 victory over the visiting Norfolk State Spartans (0-1).

Michigan started the game with Zavier Simpson and Jordan Poole at the guard spots, Charles Matthews and true freshman Ignas Brazdeikis at forward and Jon Teske at center.

Teske led the Wolverines in scoring with 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, while Brazdeikis chipped in with 12 points of his own in his debut. Matthews had 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting (0-4 from three, 0-5 from the free throw line). Isaiah Livers came off the bench and had eight points and six rebounds.

The Wolverines were never in trouble on Tuesday evening during their home opener, which also saw them raising their banners for the Big Ten Tournament title last season, as well as the Final Four and National Title game appearance.

Head coach John Beilein gathered his 800th collegiate win in the season opener, which made it another memorable night for this program.

There’s only so much to digest from a season-opening win over an overmatched opponent, but here are a few quick takeaways:

  • The Michigan defense is as good as advertised once again and picked right up where it left off last season. Norfolk State shot 30 percent on the night and was unable to get any good looks. It looks like that aspect of the team will wind up being the calling card of this team.
  • The argument can be made that Jon Teske was the best player on the court on Tuesday night with his 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. For some odd reason, the Spartans continued to drive the line on him and it never went their way. Teske has huge shoes to fill in stepping in for Moe Wagner, but it was a very positive start for him. Michigan also got some solid minutes out of Austin Davis.
  • This offense is going to struggle to find itself at times and miss some open looks, but the ball movement was terrific on Tuesday night. There was a real effort to have multiple guys touch the ball on the perimeter and they will have to find a way to cash in at some point, but it is an encouraging sign.
  • Eli Brooks and Isaiah Livers had a rough go of it during their freshman years, but looked as comfortable as ever in Michigan uniforms. They were the first two guys off the bench and if that continues, it looks like they could provide a real spark for this group. Both players just had this confidence about them and it looks like the game has slowed down.
  • Michigan went with a short bench for most of the night with an eight-man rotation. Brooks, Livers and Davis were the first three players off the Michigan bench before emptying the bench late in the game with four of the five freshman outside of Brazdeikis (Brandon Johns, David DeJulius, Colin Castleton, Adrian Nunez) getting some minutes, along with C.J. Baird.
  • Brazdeikis had a good debut when looking at the stat line, but he is still very much a work in progress. The good news is that he is not afraid the put the ball on the floor and charge towards the basket. He was 3-of-10 and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, but was 5-of-7 from the free throw line. The true freshman will continue to get opportunities to make an instant impact.
  • Michigan has been a team known for its offense, but it is going to take some time for them to figure things out in that regard. The Wolverines shot only 36.7 percent from the floor on the night and were an ugly 6-for-26 from three-point land. Add in the fact that the free throw woes returned (13-for-29) and made it a night to forget in those two key areas. This will not be one of Beilein’s better offensive teams since he has been in Ann Arbor, but they’ve got to find a way to be much better than that.

Michigan is back in action on Saturday night at Crisler when they take on Holy Cross in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.