Wolverines pull away late to win hoops opener
Written by Matt Pargoff   

 

It wasn’t the prettiest first 30 minutes of a season opener that Michigan has ever had on Saturday evening, knotted up in a close battle with a North Florida team that had previously lost to Michigan State in a blowout. The Wolverines found their footing though late, stringing together a 21-2 run down the stretch on the way to an 86-66 victory.

“I hated it when it was happening,” said Michigan head coach John Beilein. “I’m glad now that it was tied with 10 to go. It could have went either way. We made just enough plays.

“It’s good to go through a little of that (adversity) while we just continue to teach.”

Duncan Robinson led the Wolverines with 21 points, scoring a point a minute in the final 12 of the game, which accounted for all his second half scoring.

“Little things started to go our way here and there,” Robinson noted. “Just because we had a heightened sense of urgency, the game tends to favor the bold in that sense, where we’re more active and being more aggressive. You get more bounces and get more shots to go.

“They threw that funky zone defense at us and we were able to manage it better in the second half, but we’ve got to better in the first half too, taking care of the ball and getting stops.”

Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Charles Matthews as in the exhibition game, at one point missing on five straight opportunities and struggling from the foul line, but the Kentucky transfer ultimately found his comfort zone, scoring 20 points. Moritz Wagner registered a double-double, scoring 18, while pulling down 12 rebounds.

Michigan benefitted in the game from North Florida turnovers, taking the ball away 24 times.

“We’re good on defense and I thought they threw it to us a few times,” Beilein said. “But we were just trying to be solid. Sometimes if you’re just solid, they’ll run out of options and they’ll throw it away. That’s really what happened. We weren’t trapping. We were just playing straight, good, hard pressure defense.”

Normally the start of the season moves at a slower pace, but the Wolverines will be rushed back into action with just one day off, playing host to Central Michigan at 7 p.m. eastern on Monday. That game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Check out postgame video below from Beilein, Robinson, Wagner and Matthews.


 

 
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