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Michigan hopes to find its identity in Hawaii

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — There’s no rest for the weary Wolverines.

After capping a three-games, six-day stretch with a 61-47 win over Southern Miss on Thursday night, Michigan will head straight to Hawaii on Friday, where it will play three games in three days in the eight-team Maui Invitational tournament.

The Wolverines (3-0) will open play against LSU Monday night at 11:30 p.m. (local time), with a possible matchup against No. 13 Notre Dame awaiting in the next round on Tuesday night.

The other teams in the field include host Chaminade, No. 6 Wichita State, Cal, Marquette and VCU.

“We leave bright and early tomorrow morning and we’ll be on two plane rides for about 10, 11 hours. So just being with the guys and rooming with them, it’ll be a lot of fun,” said sophomore center Jon Teske, who recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in Thursday’s win.

“We know it’s not really a vacation; it’s more of a business trip. There’s a lot of tough teams out there and we’re looking forward to great competition against all of them.”

It will also mark the first time this season Michigan will be leaving the friendly confines of Crisler Center after playing its lone exhibition and first three regular-season games in Ann Arbor.

Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said the trip will be beneficial for the younger guys on the team, like freshmen Isaiah Livers, Eli Brooks and Jordan Poole, because they’ll get a chance to get accustomed to what it’s like to travel and play in someone else’s arena.

“It’ll definitely be very important. I always keep saying we got new guys, so it’s always good to get away from campus and have that bonding experience with each other at a different place,” Abdur-Rahkman said.

“(We’ll learn) how we battle adversity because things are going to happen while we’re there. … We don’t have our crowd here and we just got to be able to battle on the road.”

One thing Michigan coach John Beilein will be looking for in paradise is an answer to how to get the offense clicking. He lamented his team’s ball movement in the victory over Southern Miss, calling the offense “awful” and “stagnant” as Michigan finished with 13 assists on 23 made field goals.

An even bigger concern has been the lulls the Wolverines have fallen into in their first three games and their reliance on second-half spurts to help push them from uncomfortable situations.

Yet, Beilein is confident the early-season trip will allow the team — and himself — to work out some kinks and figure a few things out.

“We set this up to be like a six-team tournament here. We won our Sweet 16 game (against Southern Miss) and now we’re trying to win an Elite Eight game to go to the Final Four,” Beilein said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do out there, but I do know we’ll get better no matter what happens.”

Slam dunks

Michigan has shot under 40 percent on 3-pointers in all three games this season. The Wolverines finished 8-for-23 against Southern Miss, with half the makes coming from forward Duncan Robinson, who bounced back to make 4 of 8 attempts one game after shooting 2-for-8 and missing several open looks from beyond the arc against Central Michigan.

Overall, Michigan is shooting 32.9 percent (27-for-82) from 3-point range. Yet, Beilein isn’t discouraged by the early numbers.

“We haven’t shot the ball well yet, so I see it as being good news because I think we can really shoot,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if we got the (Nik) Stauskas, (Tim) Hardaway type of volume and success out there that we did before, but I don’t think we’re a bad shooting team.

“We’re going to make 3s and I don’t think we’re taking bad ones. I think we’re trying to hunt them sometimes when they don’t need to get hunted. They’ll just come within our offense or within the fast break.”

… For Michigan’s Dec. 2 home game against Indiana, a Beilein Super Soaker-themed bobblehead will be available to those who buy a special ticket promotion. The $40 package includes a game and one bobblehead, and can be purchased through under Fan Zone promotions.

The Super Soaker was made famous by Beilein last season when he used it for a postgame celebration in the locker room following Michigan's 73-69 win over Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.