New York, NY – It was all about balance for the Michigan Wolverines Thursday night as they jumped out to a huge first half cushion and navigated a mild Marquette second half rally to defeat the Golden Eagles 79-61 in the nightcap of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Senior Zak Irvin’s 16 points paced five Michigan players in double digits as the Wolverines outshot and outrebounded Marquette in jumping out to a commanding 50-26 halftime lead. Irvin was joined on the double figures list by teammates Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (15), Mark Donnal (15), DJ Wilson (10) and Duncan Robinson (10).
“We came out all amped up,” said Irvin. “We felt like this was a home game with all our fans here. This was our first real test. We played real well and I’m proud of our defense–we held them to 40 percent shooting.”
Irvin, a solidly built 6-6 wing, scores from all three levels. He’s active off the ball rubbing his man off screens and back cutting overplays. His 18 foot jumper coming off a screen increased Michigan’s first half lead to 36-20.
“It was a great win for us,” said Michigan Coach John Beilein. “For us to play that well this early in the season was big. This team is just a little more seasoned (than last year’s). What I love is that we have a team of great togetherness.”
Michigan players shared the ball all night recording 15 team assists, many of them coming out of pick-and-roll action when the Michigan ball handler either found the screener rolling to the basket or an open shooter with a skip pass on the weak side of the court.
Although he played only seven minutes, Robinson was often on the receiving end of teammates passes off penetration and responded by knocking down 3-of-4 shots from distance in helping Michigan establish its big first half lead.
Predictably, Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski was disappointed in his team’s defense, especially the way his players went about defending the Michigan high screen and roll. “Good teams make you pay when you don’t do your job, and we didn’t do a good job with our ball screen defense,” said the third year Marquette coach. “Basically, it was poor execution on the ball, on the screener and on our backside help.”
A starter much of last season, Donnal has found coming off the bench this season much to his liking. The 6-9 senior needed only 21 minutes to score his 15 points and did it in a highly efficient manner converting on 6-of-8 shots from the floor and making both of his free throw attempts.
Inserted into the Michigan starting line-up this season, Wilson collected a team-high 12 of Michigan’s 35 rebounds in addition to scoring his ten points. With Marquette attempting to mount a late comeback, Wilson made a weak side break to the rim, caught a well-place lob pass and threw down a dunk while getting fouled to put an end to any Marquette comeback thoughts.
“Wilson really played well,” commented Wojciechowski. “He gives them a different dimension. He protects the rim, gets offensive rebounds ,takes up space and can move out to the perimeter, too.”
It was a disappointing loss for a Marquette team that started its season by drubbing Vanderbilt, 95-71, on a neutral court and running past Howard, 81-49, at home. The Golden Eagles were led by senior center Luke Fischer’s 19 points.
Wojciechowski was critical of his players’ efforts in his postgame evaluation. “We’ve got to become tougher,” he said. “I thought our (lack of) offense hurt our defense. When shots aren’t falling, it can’t impact our defense the way it did for us tonight. We weren’t tough when we needed to be.
“It all comes down to competitiveness and will,” continued the Wojciechowski, rarely short in those areas as a player at Duke in his playing days. “You have to fight. A lot of times it doesn’t come down to what your game plan is. It comes down to what’s inside your chest.”
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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