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Juwan Howard, Michigan players explain second half struggles vs. App State

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Juwan Howard’s debut showed the growing pains we’d thought we would see early on.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 05 Appalachian State at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan basketball moved to 1-0 under new head coach Juwan Howard in a 79-71 win over Appalachian State on Tuesday night, but for a team that was up 30 points in the second half, that certainly was not a comfortable win.

“When we went on the run (in the first half), we made some outside shots when they were playing the zone,” Howard said after the game. “In the second half, the shots that were open, just happened they didn’t go in when they were in the zone.

“Still gotta stay the course. They’re gonna give you open shots, you just gotta be patient. That’s exactly what I was telling our guys, ‘Be patient with the zone. Let’s make sure that we work the basketball around and move. At times you may see seams in the zone, drive it.’

“I think we got in the paint and it was (Zavier Simpson) got in the paint against the zone, and the ball slipped out of his hand when he went to lay the ball up. That, right there, would have given us a big run, truly would have put the momentum in our favor, or maybe shifted a little bit to help. But, basketball gods... the ball didn’t fall in.”

The Wolverines started out the game shooting well from the floor, but when shots stopped falling in the second half, there was a vibe of panic in the air and it affected the team on both sides of the floor.

“We were trying to make a quick shot,” center Jon Teske said. “We just have to share the ball, move the ball and use the shot clock more. We had a lot of silly turnovers in the second half trying to force passes that aren’t there. If it’s not there, we just need to pull the ball out and run more offense.”

A lot of credit for Appalachian State’s comeback (which was spearheaded by a 27-3 run at one point in the game) goes to different defensive looks that they showed the Wolverines. Howard comes from an NBA background where there’s a lot of man-to-man defense. In college, it is not always that cut and dry.

“Just seeing it live helps a lot...for coach, and ourselves,” guard Eli Brooks said. “I never played against a 3-2 zone or a 2-1-2, whatever it was... but it’s just something (Coach Howard) has to learn on the fly. In the NBA, they don’t play zone. And if they do, it doesn’t look like that.”

Teske vows that the Wolverines will learn from that experience and build off of it and is looking forward to getting back on the court with his teammates in practice.

“It’s our first game,” Teske said. “It’s a long season. We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to grow from this. We still got a lot of improvement to do and that’s what practice is for. We’ll come back this week and we’ll get better.”

Everything needs to be cleaned up and get sharper from the head coach on down. Howard says that he remains critical of himself and might lose a little sleep over thinking about improvements that need to be made, but did say after the game those frustrations show that you care about the game.

“There are areas where not just our players have to improve,” Howard said. “But me as a coach, that’s part of the process. I separate myself from the group. As a coach, I keep going back, hopefully I get some sleep tonight. Hopefully I will not play every play and possession back in my head. I know I will definitely have some sleep disturbances, because I have that growth mindset. I’m always critical. I’m always hard on myself.”

Here’s more from Howard after the game on some of the woes they went through in his debut.

The Wolverines are back in action at home on Nov. 12 when Creighton comes to Crisler Center in a game set for a 6:30 p.m. ET tipoff on Fox Sports 1.