Michigan blows by Toledo on short prep in nonconference finale
Ann Arbor — The Wolverines wrapped up their nonconference slate the same way it started — with a double-digit win over a Mid-American Conference team.
Behind a balanced scoring attack and sound all-around performance, Michigan took down Toledo, 91-71, Wednesday at Crisler Center in a game that was scheduled on short notice due to a last-minute change.
"It was similar to an NCAA (Tournament) format,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “Having a one-day prep, it was a great test for us as a staff.
"We were able to pull it off and it was awesome to see how our guys were able to apply (the game plan) in just one day of teaching.”
The Wolverines were supposed to host North Carolina State on Wednesday before their ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup was called off on Monday over COVID-related issues within the Wolfpack program.
That led to Michigan scrambling and replacing N.C. State with Toledo, who became the third MAC opponent the Wolverines have defeated over the past two weeks.
"It seemed like (Coach Howard) was ready for it,” said senior forward Isaiah Livers, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds. “It seemed like he had Toledo on the back of his mind already because there were rumors (N.C. State game was off).
"We knew because they have different testing than us that it was going to be unlikely, but we still prepared for them anyways. …We weren't prepared two days ago for this game (against Toledo). We were focused on ourselves because as Coach Howard says, at the end of the day that's going to be what we have."
Michigan (5-0) proved to have plenty as freshman center Hunter Dickinson finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks to lead the charge. Sophomore wing Franz Wagner added 14 points and senior guard Eli Brooks scored 12 for the Wolverines, which shot 57.6% from the field (34-for-59) and 56.3% from 3-point range (9-for-16).
Fifth-year senior center Austin Davis scored a career-high 12 points — surpassing his previous high of 11 points set last season — but exited in the second half with a right leg injury. Davis had a walking boot on his right foot after the game and Howard said Davis would undergo tests tomorrow.
Local products Spencer Littleson and Setric Millner Jr. each scored 14, while Marreon Jackson added 12 points for Toledo (3-3). The Rockets were outscored 48-28 in the paint, shot 37.5% from 3-point range (9-for-24) and trailed by double figures the final 26 minutes of the game.
“We got the scouting report a little later than normal, but I think we have a great staff, great managers that do an excellent of getting all the important information to us as quickly as possible,” Wagner said. “This is like how the NCAA Tournament is going to be, so that's how we approached everything.
"I think we were prepared for a lot of things. We can do a lot of things better but at least we knew what their ideas were, how to play and what their main schemes were.”
Davis and Livers teamed up to score 18 of Michigan’s first 20 points as the Wolverines built a 25-14 lead in the first half. Davis did the damage early and nearly matched his career high less than five minutes into the game by scoring Michigan’s first 10 points on five baskets around the rim.
Livers then rattled off eight points within a three-minute stretch, highlighted by a mid-range jumper and 3-pointer, to kick-start a 17-5 run. Wagner capped the spurt with an open 3-pointer to give Michigan an 11-point advantage at the 10:37 mark.
Toledo managed to cut the deficit to six before a mix of turnovers, missed 3-point looks and interior shortcomings allowed Michigan to widen the gap. The Wolverines used a 17-2 run to double up Toledo, 42-21, on a driving layup by Wagner at the 1:23 mark.
The Wolverines were dominant defensively down the stretch, blocking six shots, including three on one possession, and holding the Rockets to three baskets over the final nine minutes to roll into halftime with a 44-26 lead.
Toledo threatened to cut the deficit to single digits out of the break, but Michigan countered and put the Rockets back in a 20-point hole. After Toledo trimmed it to 47-36, Michigan used an 11-2 spurt with 3-pointers from senior guard Chaundee Brown, grad transfer guard Mike Smith and Wagner to make it 58-38 with 14:53 remaining.
During the run, Davis appeared to suffer a non-contact injury when he planted his right foot and went to set a screen out on the perimeter. He was whistled for a foul and immediately hobbled off the court, struggling to put any weight on his right leg. Davis went back to the locker room for further examination and eventually returned to the bench with a noticeable limp but didn’t re-enter the game.
Michigan's lead ballooned to 74-48 following a pair of fast-break dunks from Brooks and Brown with 10:11 left to play. From there, the outcome was never in doubt as the Wolverines led by at least 20 points the rest of the way in a matchup that was put together in one day.
"No disrespect to Toledo, but in my mind I was already ready to play N.C. State," Livers said. "I'm not going to change it because we play a low- to mid-major team. You've got to come out and practice these habits and prepare like you're playing a high-major NCAA Tournament game because that's what it's going to be like.
"Toledo is going to be a really good team and they're going to be a hard team to beat in the MAC conference. Shout out to them for even giving us a game because we could've had practice today."