Michigan coach John Beilein talks about his decision to start freshman Ignas Brazdeikis and the team's performance in Friday's 90-58 victory. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — It’s hard to garner much from an exhibition against a Division II opponent.
But if there’s one thing that came out of Michigan’s lone tune-up, it’s that the Wolverines look like they’re going to have much more of an attacking-style offense this season.
Michigan scored its first 15 baskets inside the 3-point line — many coming on layups at the rim — and finished with 56 points in the paint against Northwood in a 90-58 exhibition win Friday at Crisler Center.
"We definitely have a bunch of hunters on the team, a lot of guys who can get to the hole, make plays, attack, score," said freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who started and scored a team-high 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
"I feel like with that there's so much to our offense that we can do. Me, Charles (Matthews), Jordan (Poole), we can all attack every single possession and I feel like that's our strength."
It's a different look than most Michigan teams under coach John Beilein, which have typically leaned on the deep ball and ranked among the top 3-point shooting groups in the nation year in and year out.
Yet, the Wolverines didn’t look the part against Northwood. They missed their first six attempts from long range and didn’t make their first 3-pointer until sophomore guard Eli Brooks connected from downtown with 1:56 left in the first half, giving Michigan a 38-25 lead. After going 1-for-7 over the first 20 minutes, Michigan went 4-for-5 in the second half to finish 5-for-12 on 3-pointers.
The shift isn’t totally unexpected given Michigan must replace the majority of its 3-point production with top outside shooters Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson all gone.
"I said that when we were 0-for-5 or something in the first half until Eli hit that, I said we would've taken 12 by now last year," Beilein said. "I don't think you're going to see it as much. We got some guys with really quick first steps but at the same time, we came out with good numbers. We're going to continue to grow in those areas, without a question.
Michigan freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis talks about starting in his debut and his performance in Friday's 90-58 exhibition rout. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
"We've been really shooting it well in practice, but we don't have the volume guys we've had. I said before, Muhammad was never a volume guy. It took him years to acquire that trait where Duncan came out the womb shooting and Moe did as well. None of these guys that we have expect Jordan Poole had that mentality walking in."
By the time Brooks snapped the 3-point skid, though, Michigan had the game under control since Northwood could do little to prevent the Wolverines from getting into the lane.
Brazdeikis led the relentless assault as Michigan was 9-for-9 on dunk and layup attempts in the first half. Six of those baskets coming during a 23-4 run that was capped by a Matthews three-point play and gave the Wolverines a comfortable 31-14 lead at the 5:19 mark.
The second half wasn’t much different. Michigan scored its first six baskets at the rim — highlighted by four dunks — and didn’t attempt a 3-pointer until Matthews and Poole (four-point play) buried back-to-back deep balls, giving the Wolverines a commanding 62-35 cushion with 12:42 remaining.
"With our team we got guys who are aggressive with the ball in their hands, guys who feel like we can beat our defender one-on-one and we don't have to settle for 3s," said Poole, who scored 12 on 5-for-10 shooting.
"We were trying to get to the basket as much as we can, but we also got a lot of open 3s and we're definitely going to knock them down. It's just more of how the defenders were playing us and what we feel our strengths are for the game."
Matthews finished with 13 points and junior guard Zavier Simpson and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers each scored 12. Junior center Jon Teske added 11 points, including a made 3-pointer from straightaway, for Michigan, which will open the regular season at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday against Norfolk State.
Trey McBride scored 16 and David Jelinek 10 for Northwood.
Here are some other observations from Friday’s exhibition:
► Brazdeikis got the nod at the four spot over Livers and started alongside Simpson, Poole, Matthews and Teske. It’s not a total surprise considering Livers had been battling an ankle injury last month and Brazdeikis has become increasingly comfortable at the position.
"I was super excited getting that opportunity," Brazdeikis said of the start. "I really worked hard all summer and all spring as well, so I felt like I was really prepared for the moment and I just embraced every single second of it."
Brazdeikis did most of his damage in the paint, showing an impressive ability to finish through contact with either hand. He added three rebounds but had three fouls and one turnover.
"I feel like I can do a lot better than that," he said. "I made a few errors, couple offensive fouls that I could definitely take away from the game, but I felt like I did good out there. I felt smooth. I'm feeling more comfortable every single day."
► As for Livers, he was the first man off bench and showed no concerns with his ankle. He showed off his leaping ability and put on quite the show early in the second half, throwing down three thunderous dunks within a three-minute span.
► Beilein was hoping to see a better defensive display after the lack of effort his team showed during its open scrimmage at selfie night on Monday. It’s hard to say he didn’t get what he was looking for. While Northwood shot 40.3 percent for the game (25-for-62), Michigan forced 16 turnovers that led to 25 points, recorded 10 steals and blocked seven shots.
► Poole's new role as a facilitator got off to a promising start as he tied Simpson with a team-high seven assists. Poole dished out just 22 assists last season with a single-game high of three.
"I probably didn't have seven all last year," he said with a grin. "I learned that from Muhammad. Muhammad was the guy who made the basic simple play and being able to go and say I have seven assists is cool for sure."
► Beilein went 10-deep with his rotation the majority of game with redshirt sophomore center Austin Davis, freshman guard David DeJuilus and freshman forward Brandon Johns Jr. all seeing early action. Davis was the first big man off the bench, while Johns saw action at the five and DeJulius pushed point for a brief stretch.
Freshman center Colin Castleton and freshman wing Adrien Nunez each saw the floor in the final minutes when the outcome was well decided, along with walk-ons C.J. Baird and Luke Wilson.