Paradise Island, Bahamas — Moritz Wagner tripped coming up the court. There wasn’t anything in his way except for his own legs. The dunk he had attempted moments ago didn’t go through the net.
The sequence was a glimpse of the player Wagner can sometimes be, but was far from being on Thursday night. The missed shot was his first of the game, after he made his first seven over the first 25 minutes.
“There’s minutes he’ll look awkward,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “But there’s other minutes where you’ll say, ‘Wow,’ as he grows his game.”
Wagner came into Thursday night with four total points in his four-game career. He had 15 by halftime and finished with 19 before he was taken out in the middle of a 102-47 Michigan blowout win over Charlotte in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Eleven players made field goals for the Wolverines to rebound from a 74-60 loss to No. 18 Connecticut the night before.
The freshman center said the whole experience has been a dream come true for him, which contrasted greatly to what amounted to a Charlotte nightmare — the worst loss in its program history.
“You always fear the guy having a career night against you,” 49ers head coach Mark Price said. “And that’s what happened tonight… Our guys just let him drive around us in the first half.“
Wagner allowed himself one second to relax as the final moments of the first half were approaching. Charlotte had the ball with one second left before a near-full court heave. Wagner stood in place until the final buzzer sounded. Then he realized he needed to run back to the tunnel, chest-bumping teammates on the way into the locker room.
The first half started with Wagner not looking as a pass from Derrick Walton Jr. tried to find Wagner on the break. But from there, his night only got better. He shot 8-of-9 from the field, his final shot a pretty reverse layup from under the basket in the second half.
“It’s a great feeling to score,” Wagner said. “Now I see myself on the court, and I actually can contribute to the team. It’s awesome for me.”
A night after Caris LeVert was the player to put a Michigan team on his back, the Wolverines had a more team-oriented offense, led by Wagner.
When Mark Donnal rattled in a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Wolverines a tournament-record 100 points the Michigan fans still in attendance erupted. It was a dominant performance, dominated by a lot of Michigan players. But none stood out larger than the lanky German center.
“He just knew where the rim was and he finished around the rim,” Beilein said. “That was really impressive.”
Spike Albrecht is playing at less than 100 percent after having hip surgery in the offseason. When asked why he entered late in the second half of a blowout game, Beilein said the purpose was to give Walton Jr. some rest.
“Who else are we going to put out there,” Beilein said.
... The loss was the largest in Charlotte program history, and it was also the first win for Michigan over Charlotte. The Wolverines are now 1-2 against the 49ers.
“Not much to say about that, other than that was a disaster,” Price said. “Full team effort, that was a terrible job. From a coaching standpoint, terrible job. From our players being ready to go. I take that on me. That’s my job.”
... Donnal had started the first three games of the season for Michigan, but has not in the first two games of the tournament. Ricky Doyle has taken over that role, and Donnal played mostly in garbage minutes on Thursday. His seven points all came in the final seven minutes, which is when he entered the game for the first time.
Sam Blum is a freelance writer.
Michigan vs. Texas
Tip-off: Friday, 7 p.m., Paradise Island, Bahamas
Records: Michigan 3-2, Texas 2-2
Outlook: The Michigan vs. Texas game is for fifth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.