Uncasville, Conn. — Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole downplayed the question about his shooting performance.
After scoring a career-high 22 points in Saturday’s 84-61 win over George Washington in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, Poole played coy and simply said he felt “pretty normal” during shootaround.
That’s when junior guard Zavier Simpson interjected and offered to set the record straight.
"I'm going to interrupt right there,” Simpson said. “Me and Jordan, we were having a little contest before the game. While we were in warmups, we were bragging to each other how our shot was feeling good today.
“I'm not sure what he's talking about it feeling normal. He told me before the game his shot was feeling good.”
Simpson added when Poole opened the scoring with a mid-range jumper 10 seconds into the game, he shot him a look that confirmed he was going to have a hot hand.
And it seemingly never cooled off as Poole made his first three shots, five of Michigan’s season-high 15 3-pointers and finished 7-for-12 from the floor in 30 minutes. His previous career high was 19 points, which he scored in the Big Ten opener against Indiana last season.
More importantly, though, most of Poole’s points came in chunks during two key spurts. After George Washington used a 14-2 run to chop Michigan’s 18-point lead down to six late in the first half, Poole sank two free throws and scored an and-one layup to give the Wolverines a 35-26 lead at the break.
Then in the second half, Poole effectively put the game out of reach by burying three consecutive 3-pointers within a 54-second span to make it 61-35 with 12:50 left in the game.
It was a needed breakout for Poole, who is adjusting to becoming more of a playmaker but has had some scoring struggles. Over the first three games, he tallied 13 points, shot 4-for-17 from the field and wasn’t getting open much.
“All these guys had very significantly different roles last year and that was not Jordan's job to come in and play 30 (minutes),” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Certainly, if he got it rolling like that he would've stayed in last year and he did that a couple of times. But now you got to play defense at the other end. You got to do all these other things.
“So, these guys have got to get used — whether they're volume shooters, volume defenders — they got to get used to playing through it and playing through a three-game slump. That's the biggest step I think we made today.”
It’s also an encouraging step considering redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis had been shouldering much of the scoring load so far this season.
“I just told him there's no need to press. We know how special he is, what type of player he is and what he's capable of,” said Matthews, who scored a team-high 25 points. “He's the best the shooter on the team. I just told him he's got to believe and whether he wants to or not to control your mindset.
"I think as he's going to continue to grow and continue to mature he's going to understand, and he showed that today. He didn't press, he waited, and shots were falling.”
Redshirt sophomore center Austin Davis was sidelined with an ankle sprain he suffered after a hard fall during Wednesday’s game at Villanova.
Beilein said he doesn’t expect Davis, who has backed up junior center Jon Teske, to be available for Sunday’s game against Providence.
Against George Washington, Beilein opted to mismatch his lineup and go small with sophomore forward Isaiah Livers at the five when Teske needed a break.
Davis’ absence also led to more playing time for freshman Brandon Johns Jr., who saw action down the stretch in both halves and finished with five points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.
Former Fab Five members Ray Jackson and Jimmy King sat courtside for Michigan’s win. Afterward, the duo congratulated and spoke with the team.
“Jimmy and Ray both came in the locker room afterward. Love them both and glad they want to be a part of this thing and our kids have much respect for them,” Beilein said. “It's great to have them there. I think Ray was in Texas with us last year and Jimmy has been around quite a bit, so it's all good stuff.”
… George Washington was the latest victim to finish with more turnovers (11) than assists (10). Through four games, opponents have combined for 35 assists and 61 turnovers against Michigan's defense.
Michigan vs. Providence
Tip-off: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.
Records: No. 18 Michigan 4-0, Providence 3-1
Outlook: The two teams will square off for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament championship. It will mark the third all-time meeting between the teams and first encounter since 2004 ... Providence rallied to beat South Carolina, 76-67, behind David Duke's 20 points to reach the tournament's title game.