Ann Arbor — Coming off one of the worst offensive performances in the John Beilein era, Michigan wasted little time getting back on track Saturday.
The 25th-ranked Wolverines used a first-half surge to overwhelm Mount St. Mary’s before sweating out a 64-47 win in front of a sparse crowd at Crisler Center.
Zak Irvin scored 14, Moritz Wagner had 13 and Derrick Walton Jr. added 12 for Michigan (5-1).
“I thought if you look at our defensive field-goal percentage, we had some good stops, we did just enough and hit enough 3s to get a ‘W’ but they were a challenge for us,” Beilein said. “For us to travel to South Carolina and come back, learn some valuable lessons from that game and then have this challenge right now, it was a bigger challenge than anybody would think. We'll take the 'W.’”
After Michigan took a 33-16 lead into the break, St. Mary’s Junior Robinson (21 points) hit two 3-pointers during an 8-2 spurt to cut it to 37-26 five minutes into the second half.
Michigan distanced itself with an Irvin jumper, Mark Donnal lay-in, and 3-pointers by D.J. Wilson and Duncan Robinson to put St. Mary’s in a 47-28 hole with 11:30 to play.
But St. Mary’s chipped away as Michigan’s offense went cold over a four-minute stretch, rattling off eight straight points on two 3-pointers and a layup to hack the deficit to 53-45 with 4:46 remaining.
Irvin snapped the drought with a mid-range jumper and Donnal had an offensive putback to re-establish a double-digit lead, 57-45, at the 3:05 mark.
Walton hit four free throws and Wagner added a 3-pointer in the final 2 minutes, 10 seconds to put the game away.
“They fought hard. They cut it back to eight points with about four or five minutes to go, so for us to end it on an 11-2 run is huge,” Irvin said. “We always talk about finishing strong and I'm just glad I played a part in that."
After struggling mightily in Wednesday’s loss to South Carolina (2-for-13 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range), Irvin rediscovered his shooting touch early.
Irvin opened 3-for-3 from the field, hitting two 3-pointers and a scooping layup to give Michigan an 8-7 lead with 15:37 left in the first half.
"It was huge after how poorly we shot the ball in South Carolina,” Irvin said. “We definitely wanted to come out and set the tone.
“You go out there and hit your first shot and it's like, 'Finally, thank you.' I was able to get reps in before the game, so I was happy to see the first three went in.”
After St. Mary’s (1-6) scored five straight on a layup and three-point play for a 12-8 edge at the 15:03 mark, Michigan began to pick up steam and tighten on defense to pull away with a 25-4 run to close out the half.
The Wolverines opened the flurry with eight straight points on a Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 3-pointer, Robinson jumper and Walton 3-pointer to grab a 16-12 lead at the 11:38 mark.
Then after Donnal knocked down a jumper, Irvin knifed through the St. Mary’s defense and finished with a lefty lay-in before Wagner and Robinson hit 3-pointers to give the Wolverines a double-digit advantage, 26-14, with 4:32 left.
Wagner closed out the half on his own 8-0 spurt with back-to-back layups and a 3-pointer in transition to give Michigan a 33-16 cushion at halftime.
"I think that's really important to go into the locker room with a good run,” Wagner said. “I think that's a great thing going into the locker room and then coming out strong again, too, which we had a little trouble with. I think we did a really good job in resisting the runs."
St. Mary’s had nine turnovers and missed 11 of its 13 shots over the final 15 minutes of the first half, while the Wolverines made more field goals (13) in the half than they did all game in their loss against South Carolina (10).
“We shot so poorly against South Carolina,” Beilein said. “For Zak to just come out stroking the ball the way he did was important for us and he made a huge shot down the stretch. We're finding ourselves.”