Minus Wagner, Michigan still routs Detroit Mercy
Detroit — No Moritz Wagner, no problem.
Wagner, Michigan’s leading scorer, missed his first game as a starter with a right ankle injury, but the Wolverines didn’t miss a beat.
Michigan used a sound defensive effort and a 31-6 run to close out the first half to overwhelm Detroit Mercy, 90-58, in the Hitachi College Basketball Showcase Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
Charles Matthews scored 20 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for Michigan (10-3), which shot 47.8 percent (11-for-23) from 3-point range and held Detroit Mercy to 33 percent shooting from the field.
“Just our effort level I think and our focus on that (defensive) end has been huge these last couple games,” said Duncan Robinson, who snapped out of a shooting slump with 11 points and three made 3-pointers. “Seeing that success and having some success watching the opponents' field-goal percentage go down is encouraging.”
Zavier Simpson added 12 points and seven assists, while freshman Jordan Poole chipped in 12 points.
Sophomore center Jon Teske made his first career start in place of Wagner and recorded his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a team-high 28 minutes.
"I knew this morning (about the start) when coach (John Beilein) told me and my mindset didn't change,” Teske said. “Just go in there and help the team win.
“Coach is always pushing me in practice and if someone goes down or something happens, we practice like it's a game each and every day I'm ready to go in there.”
After both teams got off to a cold start in the first college basketball game played at LCA, Michigan began to heat up and pulled ahead by double digits while Detroit Mercy couldn’t shake its shooting woes.
The Titans (4-7) missed their first eight shots and didn’t make their first field goal until Corey Allen (11 points) buried a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 16-7 with 12:13 left in the first half.
But that was just the beginning of Detroit Mercy’s problems. After a Jaleel Hogan layup pulled the Titans within 10, the Wolverines rattled off 19 straight points over a four-minute span to jump-start its momentous run to close out the half.
Eli Brooks started the fireworks with a 3-pointer and it soon started raining 3s as Robinson, Simpson and Ibi Watson each knocked down a deep ball on three straight possessions.
Robinson buried another 3-pointer and Teske capped the flurry with a pair of free throws to give Michigan a 42-13 cushion with 4:33 left.
Josh McFolley mercifully snapped Detroit Mercy’s drought with a free throw at the 3:49 mark, but things only continued to get worse as Michigan scored 12 straight — keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup by Poole — to take a commanding 54-19 advantage into halftime.
“Incredible feeling, first and foremost,” Robinson said of playing at LCA. “Unbelievable venue and fortunately we made some shots early in the game and built some momentum, but it was mostly off our defense. We were able to get stops and get out and go.”
Detroit Mercy could only trim the significant deficit under 30 twice in the second half before Matthews went into takeover mode. He scored nine straight for Michigan on a layup, 3-pointer, jumper and thunderous dunk as the lead swelled to 79-40 with 9:13 remaining.
Michigan led by at least 31 points the rest of the way to coast to its 15th straight win in the series.
Kameron Chatman, who spent two seasons at Michigan, finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead Detroit Mercy, which committed 23 turnovers.
"It's been an interesting couple days,” Beilein said. “We didn't know if Moe was going to be able to play…and Duncan had laryngitis. Yesterday trying to call ball screen coverage when you can't talk — it was hilarious. Nobody knew what was going on. I'm really proud of these guys the way they came out and defended knowing that Moe's not there.
“We really played well in the first half and they really played poorly. They had so many turnovers it just changed the game.”