The Michigan Wolverines remained undefeated on the season with a 73-64 win over No. 6-ranked North Carolina on Thursday afternoon in a Thanksgiving semifinal tilt in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They now await the winner of Oregon/Gonzaga for Friday’s final.
Eli Brooks led the way with 24 points on the day, while Isaiah Livers chipped in with 12 points. Jon Teske nearly notched a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Michigan was down by as much as nine points in the first half, but would weather a storm much like Wednesday’s game and head into the locker room at the half up 39-34. Foul trouble was a problem in the first half with Zavier Simpson as Thursday’s victim. That allowed David DeJulius an opportunity to prove himself once again and he helped the Wolverines offset the loss of Simpson with nine points in the first half.
When Michigan came out of the locker room to start the second half, they started to roll.
Michigan opened the second chapter of play on a 21-2 run that helped them take a 60-36 lead at one point of the game. North Carolina would go on a 9-0 run of its own to get the lead to 63-49 with about seven minutes to as they tried to make a push to get back into this contest. UNC would get this down to 11 at 67-56 with 4 minutes to go and Simpson fouling out, which was going to be a huge test for Michigan. They passed it and would wind up winning the game by nine points to stay undefeated on the season.
- The shot distribution on Thursday afternoon was a work of art. Michigan was pretty balanced from inside the paint, mid-range and from beyond the arc in this basketball game and it helped them get out to the big lead at the start of the half.
- Brooks is not only proving competent as the start at the two-guard spot, but he’s also turning into one of this team’s best offensive playmakers. His 23 points were impressive enough, but he hit the dagger at the end of the game to put this one out of reach and has proven himself more than capable of filling up a stat sheet for the Wolverines. He struggled to shoot the ball in his first few seasons with the Wolverines, but he has been be a terrific surprise for the Wolverines this season. He finished with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
- Simpson tested the depth of this team on Thursday by fouling out with five minutes still left in the game. However, his teammates were up to the challenge for the most part with DeJulius having another standout performance. He continues to be a microwave-type of scorer off the bench for the Wolverines with 11 points on five-of-nine shooting.
- Teske’s line of 10 points and eight rebounds is not sexy by any means, but he had a terrific defensive sequence at the end of the game when it started to get a bit tight.
- Zavier Simpson will get piled on a bit for fouling out in this one, but he only had a single turnover on the day while having six assists. He was not out there much, but he played much better on Friday in terms of taking care of the basketball.
- It’s about time we start considering Juwan Howard as a good coach and not just the guy that replaced John Beilein. This team is playing better right now than we ever thought they could this early in the season and they continue to improve with each game. It still feels like there is a ways to go, but the ceiling of this team might just be higher than it was expected to be and they have the look of a team that can be a dark horse in the Big Ten. At this point, the question is not if Howard can coach or not, but just how good he can be. His development and the team’s growth through every game is something that has been noticeable in each contest.