The Wolverine

December 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2017 THE WOLVERINE 41 we take and mold this group," the coach said, noting he didn't think the second half of a tight game was the time for the freshmen to be on the floor. "Isaiah is going to learn from film. He went in and just didn't have that activ- ity he's used to having to run the floor. "There are all kinds of learning things." That is true of the transfers, too. Sim- mons is still learning the offense, not easy to do in a few months. It takes some guys at least a year, but Beilein said both Simmons and Matthews would be critical for the Wolverines this season. Matthews averaged 16.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in the two games, and Simmons posted 3.5 points per contest. "I'm confident with both of those guys," Beilein said. "Charles can come in and feel it and play, but we're still sorting some of that out. Jaaron's in a whole different style right now, and Charles is trying to figure out, 'What's my next play? How can I keep things simple, hit singles instead of trying to hit home runs?' "Every day they're going to learn. They're two great kids on the edge of their seats watching video so they can try to get better. I'm on the edge of my seat watching video in the morning seeing what I can do to enhance their talent." In the meantime, Beilein needs his expe- rienced players to be his rocks. Abdur-Rahkman was a spectator in the win over North Flor- ida, finishing with five points in 33 minutes. He finally kicked it into gear against CMU, attacking the rim and finishing with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the victory, but it took fall- ing behind by as many as eight before he realized he needed to step up. "He has to hunt and get to the bas- ket," Beilein said. "The habits they pick up over the summer sometimes just make us take a step back. "Our guys play a lot. They are gym rats. Sometimes we are so careless with what we do, we lose some of the basics … but I love the way he's shooting the ball and looking to shoot." PLENTY OF POSITIVES Sophomores Jon Teske and Simpson were afterthoughts last year, but both played key roles in the win over the Chippewas. Simpson dished nine assists in the win over North Florida, but didn't look to score enough. That changed against CMU, when he attacked the basket and made 2 of 3 triples in a 13-point, three- assist showing. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.0 assists, and added four steals in the two games, proving to be a ball hawk on the defensive end. "Another good day for Zavier," Beilein said after the CMU win. "Our guards had seven or eight assists and zero turnovers. This Central Michigan team just turned over a very good Di- vision II team 28 times. We had six. That's a hell of a number. If we don't shoot well, six allows you to get more possessions up. "Zavier is gradually getting better and more comfortable defensively, which is really key for us. He's not making a lot of the silly fouls he used to make, and he's still playing aggres- sively." Teske showed great promise and passed it well out of the post in the exhibition against Grand Valley State, though better teams will make him finish when he's in the paint. He was fouled twice on jump- ers when he got the ball in the high post against CMU and made all four free throws in 10 min- utes, having emerged as Wagner's backup. Defensively, though, is where he was at his best. He blocked two shots and added a steal, and when CMU tried to isolate guards on him, he more than met the challenge. "That was the best he's ever played," Beilein said. "He's had a couple days in practice when he was just out there. He's got to play with that type of intensity. "They challenged him when we switched screens late. They were just going to take our big one on one, be- cause they were playing small half the game. We said, 'Jon, we're switching. You've got to guard him. We'll help you, but you've got to stay in front.' He did a wonderful job." But it's the veterans who are going to determine how far this team goes. Wagner was outstanding on the glass in the first two games (11.5 average), a huge improvement from last year, but while he averaged 14 points, he only made 1 of 8 triples. Robinson scored 21 and added seven caroms against North Florida, while Abdur-Rahkman notched 17 points and four assists against CMU. Sophomore Ibi Watson has improved and could provide some minutes. He shot the ball well in the early going (2 of 4 in the exhibition win and in the victory over North Florida), though he played only three minutes in the CMU game. Depth is something that's going to have to be developed, however, and Beilein wasn't making any guarantees heading into the meat of the non-con- ference schedule. "I have confidence the sun is going to rise tomorrow, and we're going to get better," he said. "I'm just saying, this is going to be a journey as we try to figure this thing out and mold this team together. "Find me a tougher schedule in the country. That's what we have. Embrace it. I'm going to try to embrace it, keep getting small victories and keep trying to get better." ❏ Junior forward Moritz Wagner posted a double-double in each of U-M's first two contests, while averaging 14.0 points and 11.5 rebounds. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Beilein "I have confidence the sun is going to rise tomorrow, and we're going to get better. I'm just saying, this is going to be a journey as we try to figure this thing out and mold this team together."

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