Ann Arbor, MI – On the 100th anniversary of Michigan basketball, the Wolverines beat the Northern Michigan Wildcats 70-44 to open the season. Despite hanging tough early, the outcome was never in question with Michigan getting easy buckets by forcing the Wildcats into 19 turnovers.
After several sloppy plays early, Michigan guard Caris Levert went wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Crossovers, hesitations, and a quick first step out of the triple threat led to several fouls by the Wildcats. Michigan was in the bonus with 12 minutes to play in the first half and pulled away from there. Eventually, Levert received the star treatment with double teams in the corners and post later in the half, and he showed excellent vision to pass out to a teammate.
The play of the game came from the Wolverines’ Aubrey Dawkins though. Michigan point guard Walton received the ball in the right corner, found a wide open Duncan Robinson for three, only for him to clank it back-iron and out of nowhere, Aubrey soared in for a remarkable put-back jam.
If not for Northern Michigan’s diminutive (5’8” 150lb) PG, Naba Elchols, this would’ve been a blow out much earlier. He scored half of the Wildcats 26 points including one NBA range three and two lightning quick drives ending in high left-handed scoops off the glass.
Northern Michigan’s Jordan Perez also showed some flashes with a step-back jumper and solid stroke from 3 off a screen, but was often out of control going to the rack. Elchols was held to zero in the second half as the Wolverines did a good job stopping him on the fast break. This led to more forced shots by Perez. He still finished a respectable 6-for-14, but was 1-for-6 from distance.
Perez wasn’t the only one having a tough time. Senior Wildcat guard Terry Nash displayed miserable decision making as he constantly beat his first man off the dribble only to do a wild jump pass to no one, once he reached the lane.
U of M’s DJ Wilson was a surprise standout of the first half. At 6’10” and 240, he is lean, long and runs the floor very well. He showed great post defense and made an excellent pass from the top of the key to Kameron Chatman cutting back door. He also stretched the floor and showed a nice stroke on corner threes.
The second half continued where the first left off. The game quickly got out of hand, and LeVert and Dawkins left the game with 10 minutes left. Before departing, LeVert displayed his passing skills in the half court as the Wildcats focused in on him, while Dawkins ran the fastbreak a few times with great decision making. Another Michigan wing, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, also showed nice touch with a lefty finger roll in traffic.
LeVert finished with an efficient 18 points (7-for-12 from the field) and Dawkins was 6-for-7 showing he can be in the right place at the right time for dunks and kick out threes. No other Wolverine scored more than seven and Dawkins led the team in rebounding with six boards.
Michigan’s talent and length overwhelmed the Wildcats as they constantly turned it over and committed some hard frustration fouls in the final minutes with the 6’6” 283 pound Kenny Williams fouling out. Williams was the only big man to get good position down low for the Wildcats, but his height and touch limited his finishing ability despite decent footwork.
I wouldn’t put much weight on this performance considering the talent gap between the two teams.
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