The Michigan Wolverines look like a deeper, improved team from the group that took the court last season in Juwan Howard’s first as head coach. Despite this, the early going of the new campaign has come with its fair share of bumps in the road as the team works itself into form during a quick non-conference run in a weird season.
In games against Bowling Green, Oakland and Ball State, the Wolverines have had moments where they have played down to the level of competition with their second game even going to overtime before pulling away. Howard says it is simply part of the game that runs are bound to happen no matter the opponent.
“(Basketball is a game) based on runs,” he said after Wednesday’s win over Ball State. “A team like Ball State who came out playing extremely hard, very competitive group. Also, a very experienced group. They have seniors, juniors, guys that have been in the trenches before. It’s something I expect to happen at some point throughout the game of 40 minutes, you’re going to have a team come out and size you up and see when they can make their run. That’s how it goes at times when your shot is not falling or you may have had a turnover, which I recall we had 9 turnovers in the first half.
“We gave them an opportunity to have a chance at the basket, we gave them 9 extra possessions. I love the way our team responded, especially in the beginning of the second half coming out with a better defensive disposition. We got after it, got into them. Got some very good defensive stops, we got out into transition and we were able to capitalize on either good shots because of our spacing and also good attacks at the basket.
Michigan won comfortable over the Cardinals despite a 19-6 run surrendered at the end of the first half. This allowed them to go deeper onto their bench than they had in the two games that preceded Wednesday and allowed for extra run for players like Jace Howard and Adrien Nunez in addition to walk-on Jaron Faulds.
“Give credit to the guys before them, being able to do their job,” Howard said. “Those players that got in at the end are players that have been helping us prepare for practice. Always showing up, doing whatever they can to help the team and always giving to the team. It was great to get an opportunity to see everyone you just mentioned. Like Jace getting in the game, see Jaron (Faulds) get an opportunity and score a bucket. I knew when he caught the basketball and went into his crab dribble, I had the utmost confidence that he was going to score because I’ve seen it so much in practice. Also, to see a guy like Adrien finally get his opportunity to play. Like I said earlier to you guys, we’re going to need each and every guy on our roster. There are reasons why. A lot has to do because of COVID.”
Next up is a tilt with UCF on Sunday at Crisler Center in a 4 p.m. matinee tipoff on Big Ten Network.