Michigan grubs on open looks, breezes past Chattanooga
Ann Arbor — Thanksgiving might have come and gone but the Wolverines weren’t done feasting.
No. 9 Michigan picked apart and devoured Chattanooga to roll to another convincing victory, 83-55, Friday at Crisler Center.
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis led the way with his second straight 20-point performance for No. 9 Michigan (6-0), while sophomore guard Jordan Poole added 14 points and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers scored 12 off the bench.
The Wolverines shot 49.2 percent (29-for-59) from the field, marking the third time in four games they've hit at a 49-percent clip or better.
"You wonder when we went out to Villanova (last week) and all of a sudden we're making them from all over and we say, 'Why didn't we do this at home?'" Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We had similar shots and I see it and it's a slow trend of us being more comfortable.
"What's a good shot in games? What's my shot in games? What's the winning type of shot look like? There's some doubt there sometimes and we took very few bad ones today. It is good that we can just shoot and people are growing."
Much like it has during its perfect start, Michigan turned its defense into offense to grab a double-digit lead just 5 minutes, 24 seconds into the game, gorging on open looks off turnovers against a scrambling Chattanooga defense and transforming stops into odd-man fast-breaks that led to a steady diet of free throws.
The Wolverines seemingly got whatever they wanted on the offensive end, even when it came to out-of-bounds plays under the basket. Sophomore guard Eli Brooks threw an inbound pass and started running back on defense before Livers drained a corner 3-pointer during a 10-0 run that put Michigan up 21-6 with 12:46 left in the half.
When it came to pick-and-roll action with junior center Jon Teske (seven points, 12 rebounds), Chattanooga couldn't do much to stop it. Teske converted a couple difficult finishes at the rim off lob passes from redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews and junior guard Zavier Simpson — one coming while being fouled — and even popped out for a jumper at the elbow that extended the lead to 30-14 at the 8:09 mark.
It never got any better for the Mocs over the final 6:06 as the Wolverines limited them to 1-for-10 shooting and used seven straight points from Brazdeikis — four free throws sandwiched around a 3-pointer — to surge into halftime with a 42-22 cushion.
Michigan showed no loss of appetite in second half, opening with back-to-back 3-pointers by Poole and Brazdeikis and emphatically swatting two Chattanooga shots on one early possession.
The Wolverines put the blowout into full effect with a 7-for-8 shooting stretch that started and ended with a Brazdeikis bucket to turn the contest into a 72-36 laugher with 8:30 to go.
But even after another dominant showing that saw Michigan unload its bench over the final six minutes and maintain at least a 20-point lead the entire second half, there's still a sense that the offense has plenty of room to grow.
"I feel like we're all right," Poole said. "We're getting the shots that we practiced. We can get better shots, but we also are turning down some shots. We're not being aggressive in some areas, but it's definitely just coming off our defense. We're getting a lot of stops, but we should be running more in transition. It's just a lot of little things that we can still work on."
Kevin Easley scored 21 on 8-for-13 shooting for Chattanooga (2-5), which shot 36.1 percent (22-for-61) from the floor but had eight of those made field goals come in the final 7:42 when the outcome was already decided.
With the win, the Wolverines have won every game this season by at least 19 points and haven’t trailed for a single second in its last four games. Yet, Beilein is quick to pump the brakes with a pair of tough games looming next week against No. 7 North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and No. 24 Purdue in the Big Ten opener.
"I think we certainly caught some teams that are rebuilding — Villanova, George Washington and Providence have all lost some pretty key players as we did," Beilein said. "I don't think we're this juggernaut. I think we're OK and we're going to keep growing and no matter what happens next week, we're going to just keep growing and try to get better.
"We got a lot of things we have to get done. We don't have that type of experience yet to just say, 'OK, watch out. Here comes Michigan.'"
Here are some other notes from Friday’s win:
►After missing the past two games with an ankle sprain he suffered at Villanova last week, redshirt sophomore center Austin Davis dressed and played with a brace on his left ankle.
While Livers saw plenty of minutes at the five in Davis’ absence, Davis was the first big to check in for Teske when he needed a breather as Livers spent much of his time at the four against Chattanooga. Davis finished with six points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
►While Michigan's defense has given opponents fits, Beilein wasn't too pleased with his team's ability to run Chattanooga off the 3-point line. The Mocs finished 8-for-22 from beyond the arc, which is the most makes and attempts the Wolverines have allowed this season.
"That team getting that many 3s today, that should not have happened," Beilein said. "We were just a step late on defense and we got to make sure that doesn't happen Wednesday or Saturday or the following Tuesday or the following Saturday."
►Late in the second half, Michigan rolled out a three-guard lineup with freshman David DeJulius, Brooks and Simpson along with Brazdeikis and Livers. Beilein said he was simply trying to get DeJulius as many minutes as possible to get him more comfortable "in the event we need him."
►Every opponent Michigan faced this season had finished with more turnovers than assists, but Chattanooga was barely able to buck the trend. The Mocs finished with 13 turnovers and 13 assists.
►With a little over three minutes left in the game, a “Beat Ohio” chant broke out at Crisler Center in reference to the football team’s Saturday showdown against Ohio State.