Ann Arbor — The disparity was noticeable from tip-off.
When 7-foot-1 center Jon Teske lined up at halfcourt before the start of Sunday’s nonconference finale, he was greeted by UMass Lowell’s tallest player: 6-7 forward Connor Withers.
Against an opponent that lacked size, No. 11 Michigan took advantage of the significant height differential and overwhelmed UMass Lowell in an 86-60 thumping at Crisler Center.
Teske’s towering presence, in particular, was too much for the River Hawks to handle as he led the way with a career-high 25 points (11-for-14 shooting) and eight rebounds in 25 minutes. It marked the second 20-point game of his career and bested his previous high of 22 points set against Nebraska last season.
“We knew that they had a group that was a very competitive team, but they were not a big team like the size of a guy like Jon or Austin (Davis) or any of our bigs,” coach Juwan Howard said. “I wanted to take advantage of our size advantage as well as Jon's skill level.
“It hasn't been no secret. This year I've been establishing him in the post to establish our inside-outside game and today was a good day to continue with that game plan.”
And that game plan was clear from the jump: Get the ball to the post and let the big men go to work.
Teske and sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr., who was making his first career start in the place of injured junior forward Isaiah Livers (left groin), combined to score 13 of Michigan’s first 17 points as the Wolverines (10-3) imposed their will and jumped out to a 13-point lead with 13:06 left in the first half.
“The first play (of the game) we drew up was for Jon,” said junior guard Eli Brooks, who finished with 15 points. “That set the tone, but obviously you try to take advantage of your advantages and work off of that."
While all of Michigan’s big men gave UMass Lowell problems, it simply had no answer for Teske. He needed less than seven minutes to reach double figures in scoring and did it in a variety of ways — over his man in the post with short hook shots, around the rim with easy layups and off an offensive putback.
Michigan’s length also gave UMass Lowell fits on defense. The River Hawks (6-9) struggled to finish around the rim and knock down mid-range jumpers over defenders, clanking 13 of their first 15 shots and failing to corral most of their misses.
“We are kind of big team. I think it disrupted them a little bit more than other teams would,” Johns said. “They're more of a perimeter-based team, so we really tried to emphasize closing out on the 3-point line.”
After Michigan took a 42-25 lead into the break, the Wolverines continued to attack the paint. Teske opened the second half with back-to-back baskets around the rim and Johns scored on a driving layup and offensive putback to push the margin to 52-29 with 15:17 remaining.
Another layup from Teske — off a feed from sophomore center Colin Castleton, who was being double-teamed down low — widened the gap to 70-40 with 10:03 to go.
“It's nice,” Brooks said of the luxury of being able to dump the ball inside. “We get two or three easy assists a game just by throwing it to Jon, so can't beat that. It opens up a lot more for other people on the perimeter, in driving lines and stuff like that. Jon has been playing really well and coach (Howard) has been wanting the ball to go to him. He's been demanding it, so it's been working out well.”
The Wolverines took their largest lead, 72-40, on a fast-break layup from senior guard Zavier Simpson (nine points, 10 assists) and led by at least 23 points the rest of the way to close the non-conference slate in convincing fashion.
Michigan will resume Big Ten play after the new year with a Jan. 5 meeting at Michigan State.
Christian Lutete scored 21, Obadiah Noel 16 and Ron Mitchell 11 for UMass Lowell, which was outrebounded, 41-25, and outscored 48-26 in the paint.
In addition to Teske, Michigan’s other bigs — redshirt junior center Austin Davis, Castleton and Johns — combined for 17 points and 16 rebounds.
"I'm happy that we have big guys that are skilled but also put forth the work in the summer and it's not always driven by the coach,” Howard said. “They come in on off days and are working in practice. On non-practice days they’re getting up shots, looking at film, in the weight room, trying to figure out ways to improve their game.
“That's a coach’s dream to have players that are wired the right way, that's not driven by the coach and just want to do whatever they can to help better themselves and be a best version for the group. I will sound like a broken record, but I'm blessed to have a group like this.”