The Michigan Wolverines (4-0) have a tough road ahead in non-conference play and used Friday night’s tilt against visiting Houston Baptist (0-4) as a tune-up game, running the Huskies out of the building by a score of 111-68.
Isaiah Livers scored a career-high 24 points, while Zavier Simpson added a double-double with 22 points, 14 assists and five rebounds on the evening.
The Wolverines jumped out to a 28-6 lead at the under-12 timeout and a 38-10 lead at the under-8 timeout. Houston Baptist was taking horrible shots, turning over the basketball like crazy and not getting back on defense. All of those ingredients were the perfect storm for a Michigan blowout and what got this game into a 63-26 (!!!) deficit at the half.
Things would even out a bit on the scoreboard in the second half with Houston Baptist shooting around 65 percent in the first 10 minutes of the half, but the Wolverines were by and large able to hold off any major surges by just about equalling what they did on the scoreboard. Michigan held a lead of 84-49 with 10 minutes to go in the half. As the game stayed out of control, Juwan Howard began to empty the bench with about seven minutes left in the game and those guys rode it out until the final buzzer.
Here are a handful of takeaways from the immediate aftermath.
- We have discussed here more than a few times that Michigan is going to go as Simpson and Livers do and they were the spark that lit the offensive fire on Friday night. Livers had 17 points at the half and hit on all six of his shots, while Simpson had 15 points and hit on five-of-six attempts. The laugher of a game was fueled by those two guys (and Eli Brooks) setting the tone early on.
- Michigan had not played a game in seven days and were up against another team that was a cupcake opponent in non-conference play. With a trip to the Bahamas coming during the holiday, it would be easy to coast through this one, but Michigan took it as seriously as any other game and run the Huskies right out of the building. They won just about every single battle in the box score and they played hard throughout the entire night no matter who was on the floor. Juwan Howard has them playing hard and focused through the first four games of the season.
- Everything went right for most of Michigan’s players offensively on Friday, but not Adrien Nunez, who was really the only player that had any notable struggles in the game. He finished the game 3-for-11 from the floor and 2-for-10 from three. A lot of people will look at that and (rightfully) be somewhat concerned, but he was taking open shots and certainly does not lack the confidence or the green light to do so. That said, the way that things are shaping up now in Michigan’s eight-man rotation, he is probably the eighth-best guy off the bench. His status is going to be something work keeping an eye on when Franz Wagner eventually returns in the next few weeks.
- Speaking of Wagner, he was in the building tonight in street clothes with nothing covering his hand or wrist. It may be too early to know if he plays in any of these games in the Bahamas next week, but he certainly appears as if he could be back on the floor sooner rather than later once he is back in basketball shape.
- As far as the rotation goes, with Michigan up so big so early, Howard went to his bench and young guys a little earlier in the first half and gave them some extended run. Colin Castleton finished the night with a career-high 14 points, while David DeJulius had 10 of his own. Freshman Cole Bajema even got in on the fun in the first half and played a decent chunk of the game, setting a career-high scoring mark (admittedly, small sample size) with five points. Every single healthy player on the roster played in this game.
Next up for the Wolverines is a three-games in three days during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next week in the Bahamas. The first game will come against Iowa State and is set for a noon tipoff on Wednesday.