The Wolverine

December 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2017 BY CHRIS BALAS I f Michigan's basketball team proved anything in the first cou- ple weeks of the season, it's that it has potential — but that nothing's going to come easy. The Wolverines came out of the cor- ner swinging in an 82-50 exhibition win over Grand Valley State, led by red- shirt sophomore and Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews' 23 points. U-M then rode the newcomer and veterans Duncan Robinson and Mu- hammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman in its first two regular-season games, defeat- ing North Florida (86-66) and Central Michigan (72-65). The Wolverines trailed in the second halves of each of their first two contests, and head coach John Beilein saw more zone against his team in the two games than he's witnessed in a long time. "This is a first in 1,200 games as a head coach, going back to high school … 80 minutes of zone in two games," he said. "What they're doing is trying to negate a lot of what we can do man to man, what [junior forward] Moritz Wagner can do as a pop five. "Our guys are just getting accus- tomed to the timing of what we want to do. We're passing, passing, passing, and we've got to drive the ball. I'm coaching them on these cuts we have to make … all these things we're learning about as we go through it. "If we shoot the ball well, though, we're probably not asking any ques- tions. We did get some really open shots." Over both games, they made only 19 of 59 three-point attempts (32.2 per- cent). That's where they'll need to improve, first and foremost. Robinson, a fifth- year senior, made only 2 of 8 triples in the win over Central Michigan, and Wagner went 1 of 5. Robinson made 4 of 7 to lead a second-half surge against North Florida in the Nov. 11 opener, but Wagner was 0 of 3 against the zone. Both guys will have to shoot better if U-M is going to meet its potential. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT Though Matthews is athletic, it re- mains to be seen if he's got what it takes to be the star and go-to guy when the Wolverines need a bucket. He made only 22.2 percent (2 of 9) of his triples in two games and seemed hesitant to shoot many after missing a few against CMU. Graduate transfer point guard Jaaron Simmons, meanwhile, is still trying to learn the offense, though Beilein com- mended him for attacking the Central Michigan zone and getting two feet in the paint in the second half to set up teammates. Early on, though, Beilein is showing that he'll shorten the bench to gut out some wins, while his team continues to jell. Matthews, Robinson, Wagner, Ab- dur-Rahkman and sophomore Zavier Simpson all logged 22-plus minutes through two games, while Simmons averaged 12.0 and nobody else more than 8.5. Freshmen Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks at power forward and point guard, respectively, will be good play- ers in time, but they played only nine minutes between them against CMU with Beilein opting for experience. "This is what's best right now, that WORK IN PROGRESS John Beilein's Basketball Team Has Many Questions To Answer Beilein's team made just 32.2 percent (19 of 59) of its three-point attempts in the first two games, which resulted in the opposition playing a lot more zone defense than the U-M head coach is accustomed to seeing. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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