UM’s revived offense will face test vs. stingy Furman
Michigan basketball has some confidence brewing, especially on offense.
In its last three games, including the loss to No. 2-ranked UCLA, the Wolverines are averaging 93 points. They scored 97 and 98, respectively, in their last two games, blowout wins over Central Arkansas and Maryland-Eastern Shore.
All this after Michigan’s offense, with so many shooters, labored in a 53-50 victory over Texas.
“We realized we weren’t running,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.
Michigan plays the third game of its seemingly annual mid-December homestand of lower-level opponents, though Furman (7-5) might be able to provide a bit of a test when it visits Crisler Center on Thursday.
Furman’s defense is holding foes to 40-percent shooting, the best Michigan will have seen so far.
Furman, which plays out of the Southern Conference, also has four road wins, including one early in the season against UAB.
“I don’t know anyone (else) in the country that has four road wins,” Beilein said. “Without a doubt, the best opponent of all the (three recent home) games.
“It’s one of those games, I look at Northeastern coming into town and sweeping up Oakland and Michigan State. That’s where everyone is right now, as teams are trying to find themselves.”
Furman returns four starters from last year’s nine-win team, and has four players shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
In most of the games for Michigan (9-3) this season — UCLA notwithstanding — it’s been able to key in on one or two offensive threats.
“Now we’ve got four guys we gotta guard from 3-pointers, plus an experienced senior center,” Beilein said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, and we’ve gotta be up for it.”
Three Furman players average double digits in scoring, led by Devin Sibley (15.4), who is shooting 46.8 percent on 3-point attempts. As a team, Furman is shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc, and its defense is allowing only 29.5 percent on 3-pointers.
And we all know Michigan loves to shoot the deep ball, having put up 92 attempts in the last three games.
Ten of the 14 Big Ten teams open conference play Dec. 27 or 28, but Michigan doesn’t start until Jan. 1 at Iowa, so that gives the players a chance to spend the holidays with family.
That includes sophomore big man Moritz Wagner, who will get to go home to Berlin for four days. He has an early flight out Friday. Everyone else will do some lifting in the morning, watch some film and then head their separate ways.
“They need to get away right now,” Beilein said. “Go back, just be a kid again.
“We encourage this. This is great.”
Given the Big Ten season is likely to be pushed up next year, with the Big Ten tournament moving up a week in 2017-18, this will likely be the only time Wagner gets to go home for Christmas while at Michigan. He didn’t get to go home last season.
Strength coach Jon Sanderson will be giving players’ on-their-own workout plans, with one day set aside to head to their high school gym and shoot during the off days.
Michigan still doesn’t know when it will tip against Iowa on Jan. 1, so its travel plans — as well as the beat writers’ — are in flux.
Beilein joked the press should travel on the team’s charter.
“The President does it,” Beilein said with a smile. “He has the press corps with him.”
... Michigan will have nine days between Thursday’s game and the Big Ten opener, then will open Big Ten play with three games in seven days.
“Next thing you know,” said Beilein, “you’re closing in on the end of the regular season.”
... Furman coach Niko Medved has Big Ten roots, having graduated from Minnesota in 1997.
Furman at Michigan
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Thursday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Outlook: This is the final game of the nonconference season for Michigan (9-3) before starting Big Ten play Jan. 1 at Iowa. Tip-off for that game remains TBD. ... A win, and John Beilein would be at 750 for his career. ... Furman (7-5) returns four starters from a team that went 19-16 last season.