MILWAUKEE, Wisc. -- A win's a win and in March that’s all that matters as Michigan opened up their 2014 NCAA tournament with a second round win over Wofford, 57-40.
Another slow start plagued Michigan Thursday, an issue the Wolverines continue to try to work through in the latter part of this season.
“I was a coach that was today very concerned about how well they would guard us and they did,” Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. “And very concerned about their three-point shooting. They guarded us well; they held us to 57-points.
“We did a terrific job in guarding (Karl) Cochran, (Eric) Garcia and all of their three point weapons, and Jordan Morgan did a great job in the post. So, we get a win basically with our defense today and that’s something a lot of people wouldn’t say if they watched us play this year but, these guys made a commitment to it today and it paid off.”
According to Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas, effort wasn’t the issue in the Wolverines’ closer than expected victory.
“I think we gave a great effort today,” he said afterward. “At the end of the day all we need is a win, it doesn’t matter how pretty or how ugly it is. We’ll take a win and advancing onto the next round.”
Stauskas adding, “We started off maybe a little bit slow but at the end of the day we did a good job of finding our pace and finding our rhythm.”
Fortunately for the Wolverines and the few thousand fans in attendance, the Terriers weren’t able to pounce on it, starting the game a decrepit 5-of-17 from the field, trailing 20-10 with 7:18 left in the first half.
On the other side, Michigan took their time getting acclimated to the Bradley Center as Wofford’s pressure and crisp defensive rotations forced the Wolverines to think twice about their attack.
Michigan’s leading scorer and the Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas, didn’t even attempt a field goal until nearly halfway through the first half. Stauskas managed to head into the break with seven points making all three of his attempts from the field.
The spark for Michigan in the first half came from sophomore wing Glenn Robinson III. Allowed the time and space by the Terriers, Robinson III calmly stepped into two three-pointers and a long two as he went into the break leading the Wolverines with 11-points.
Even so, Robinson III, who finished with 14-points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, believes he left some opportunities on the court.
“I had a lot of finishes at the rim that I missed,” Robinson III said. “They rolled off the rim. But like I said, my shot felt great and some just didn’t go down.
“I could’ve been a little more aggressive in transition. I always critique my game, watch the film with one of the coaches and just see what I could’ve done better.”
The second half wasn’t much different for Michigan as a sluggish start allowed Wofford to hang around and begin to chip away at the lead. The Wolverines scored just nine points in nearly 14 minutes of second half play as their outside shots clanged out, knocking down just 1-of-6 over that span.
The Terriers’ 13-2 run midway through the second half cut Michigan’s lead to just seven, 40-33, the closest the Terriers would get the rest of the game despite loud cheers and yearning from an upset minded crowd.
“They made a run and their fans got into it but that’s nothing we’ve never seen before,” Stauskas said. “We’ve been there before and we did a good job of staying poised in that circumstance and we answered their run for sure.”
Jordan Morgan’s layup through contact and the foul answered a Wofford bucket on the other end to help keep the Terriers at an arms length for Michigan down the stretch. Morgan finished his day with a crucial 10-points to go with 10 rebounds.
With just over a minute to play, Wofford in an extended trapping zone down by 15, Nik Stauskas delivered the dagger as Walton Jr. found him wide open on the wing for a three ball as the shot clock dwindled down. Stauskas finished the game with 15-points, notching 1,000 for his career in the second half.
For freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr., getting his first taste of NCAA tournament action inside a relatively quiet and nearly empty arena is just motivation to keep going.
“I know for a fact the more you play, the more people that show up,” he said. “So, we’re looking to make a deep run and hopefully we keep checking and rebounding like we did tonight and great things could happen.”