The Michigan basketball team opened up exhibition play with an inconsistent effort in a 77-69 victory over the Grand Valley State Lakers last weekend. In that game Tommy Amaker's club squandered a 24 point lead in the last eight minutes and committed 25 turnovers. Friday night in their exhibition finale versus Northern Michigan they were determined to turn in a better performance, and that's exactly what they did.
The two teams battled to an early 6-6 tie before the Maize and Blue went on its first big run of the night. Daniel Horton got things going with a triple and was responsible for 10 points (scoring eight himself and assisting on another bucket) on an 11-2 run that put the Wolverines up 20-8 at the 13:05 mark. The Wildcats tried to stem the tide with two straight buckets, but that was not enough to stop the coming onslaught.
Michigan's second big run of the night was ignited by a beautiful driving lay-in by freshman Jerret Smith for an and-1. That was the start of a seven minute span in which the home team outscored the visitors 17-0 to gain a 37-12 advantage with six minutes to go. The Wolverines pushed the lead to 26 by halftime and headed into the locker room up 50-24.
Michigan was all over the opposition on defense in the first stanza, limiting the visitors to 27% shooting and grabbing 8 steals. Horton, who had 12 points and four assists, was particularly effective at swiping the ball from the opposition, grabbing three of those first half steals himself (and five for the game).
"I thought he had a great game," Amaker said of his floor leader. "I think it started with his ability to pressure the ball. He read passing lanes really well. You talk about steals…the steals weren't coming on the ball. We were reading passing lanes very well and I think he was the best at it for us. So it was nice to see our players have that carry-over from practice and the things that we were preaching and teaching. To see them getting some success out of it on the court in a game situation. I thought him getting five steals, four assists and one turnover…he was a complete player this evening."
The Wildcats had better luck finding the bottom of the net in the second half, as they shot 56.5% after the intermission. They cut the lead to 20 with 14:55 to go, but the Wolverines answered with another offensive explosion behind the sweet shooting of sophomore forward Ronald Coleman to make the game a laugher.
Northern Michigan decided to go into a zone, and Coleman made them pay. From his power forward position he flashed to the opening in the high post almost every time down the court. When he got to the soft spot, his teammates found him, and he knocked down the shots. After scoring only two points in the first half, he erupted for 15 in the second (and even assisted on two other buckets, including a three pointer). He helped the home team blow the game wide open, as they rolled to a 45-point victory, 101-56. According to Amaker, this was a game that should help Coleman a great deal.
"I thought he got some confidence," Amaker said. "I think Ron is a very streaky player. We saw that tonight. He made a couple of shots and then it seemed like everything was going to go down for him. So, he needed that. He hadn't been playing as well in the last game and didn't play well until he got into a rhythm offensively. They went into a zone, which is a great opportunity for Ron to be effective for us because he's such a good shooter."
Coleman wasn't the only one that gained confidence from this game according to Horton. After the performance turned in last week, Michigan's senior leader felt this type of dominant performance was important for the entire team. "I think we came out today and we were hungry," he said. "We were more prepared than we were last game, as far as mentally being prepared as a team, being focused and ready to play. We still had a lull at the beginning of the second half but for the most part, it was a great team effort."
On the night Coleman led all scorers with 17 points 6 rebounds. In addition all five Wolverine starters scored double figures. Northern Michigan was paced by forward Ricky Volcy with 15 points and 6 boards.
The Wolverines resume action at Crisler Arena next Friday night at 7pm in their regular season opener versus Central Michigan.
- Courtney Sims left the game in the second half with a hyper-extended knee. He was limping in the locker room, but said he'd be ready to go next week. "It's sore now," Sims said. It's probably going to be sore for the next couple of days but I'll be out there for practice."
- Chris Hunter left the game after having his front tooth knocked out late in the second half.
- Kendric Price saw his first game action as a Wolverine and scored on an
alley-oop. His appearance in this contest does not affect Michigan's ability
to redshirt him should they decide to do so since this was an exhibition game.