Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines played their second game of the season on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor with the Creighton Bluejays in town, where the Wolverines walked out with a 79-69 victory to move to 2-0 on the season. These two teams came into the game similarly ranked on KenPom (Michigan 30th, Creighton 31st), so it was a big test passed for the Wolverines in a contest against a similarly-talented opponent.
It had every bit the feel of a March game with both squads going back and forth throughout the night. Forward Isaiah Livers and guard Zavier Simpson led the team offensively with 22 and 17 points, respectively, while center Jon Teske added 17 points and seven rebounds.
On the night, the Wolverines were 30-for-53 from the floor (56.6 percent) and 9-for-23 from three-point range while also going 10-for-12 from the free throw line. Creighton shot 42.5 percent on the evening (31-for-73, 7-for-20 from three).
Here are some quick takeaways after the clocks hit zero from Crisler Center:
- I was very impressed by the coaching job that Howard did on Tuesday night. In a lot of ways, it was a complete 180 from last week’s opener where things got way too close for comfort and Michigan did not have much by way of answers, surviving a scare from App State. Tonight, Howard made adjustments in the locker room at halftime and throughout the game and it was a fairly thorough and consistent performance from his team. He was active on the sidelines, running his players through their offensive sets and just seemed to push all of the right buttons. To win a chess match against a coach like Greg McDermott, who has 488 victories in his career, seems like a notable thing to take place. Tip of the cap to Howard and his team’s response after a week between games.
- Livers and Simpson are the heartbeats of this basketball team and, at least early on, this team is going to go as those two go. After rough opening nights for the both of them, they stepped up in a big way and provided the offensive punch that this group probably needs out of its upperclassman leadership. Of the two, Simpson playing well is probably the most critical and he has to be on it almost every night, but when Livers can step up and take the pressure off of him, it just opens things up for everyone else.
- Despite a significant size advantage in this game for the Wolverines, rebounding was an issue all night. They were outrebounded 23-10 in the first half with 10 offensive boards from the Bluejays. It evened out a bit in the second half, but the deficit stayed as it did throughout the game with a final total of 38-27 in favor of Creighton. That’s something that will have to be cleaned up.
- The defensive effort in the first half was not great by the Wolverines, as Creighton went to the locker room up 41-38 after the first 20 minutes of play. Michigan had a tough time keeping Bluejay players in front of them. The second half was much better and they, for the most part, adjusted wonderfully on that end of the floor.
- Adrien Nunez probably had the most notable struggles early on in the game defensively. His confidence offensively is apparent, but he still has a ways to go on the other side of the floor.
- Right now, Michigan’s best five-man lineup combination is when they have Simpson, Eli Brooks and David DeJulius on the floor at the same time with Livers and Teske. All three players seem comfortable in on- and off-the-ball situations and each is comfortable taking shots when the opportunity presents itself.
- The pick and roll game with Simpson and Teske was nearly flawless in this game. That should be fun to watch as the year goes on and it’s really great to see Teske pull out a variety of moves down in the post. He was not the force that he maybe could have been with this matchup, but when Michigan needed it late, they got it from “Big Sleep.”
Michigan’s next game comes on Friday night at 7 p.m. at home against Elon in a Battle 4 Atlantis mainland game.