ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team opened its 2001-02 season on Sunday (Nov. 4) by welcoming former Wolverine Josh Asselin (1998-2001) and the EA Sports Midwest All-Stars to Crisler Arena. The Maize and Blue earned a 94-68 victory in head coach Tommy Amaker's first exhibition game at the helm of the Wolverines.
The Maize and Blue was paced by strong performances from junior guard Gavin Groninger (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield HS), who scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and a red-hot 7-of-11 from outside the three-point arc, and senior Leon Jones (Battle Creek, Mich./Winchendon Prep [Mass.]), who had 19 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Dommanic Ingerson (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara HS) led all freshmen with 11 points.
The Wolverines went with fifth-year senior Mike Gotfredson (Grosse Pointe, Mich./South HS), junior LaVell Blanchard (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS), Groninger, Jones and senior Chris Young (Plymouth, Mich./Catholic Central HS) to start the game. However, it took some time for the Wolverines to find their legs and their offense, starting 0-of-5 shooting until 18:35 when Young was able to put away a Blanchard miss.
Asselin's first foul set up a Jones score on a hook shot from 4 feet out over the former Michigan center. Chuck Bailey (Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King HS) became the first freshman to come onto the court for the Wolverines, subbing in at power forward for Blanchard. Bailey scored his first point as a Wolverine at 15:28 in the first half after the EA All-Stars' Anthony Jackson fouled him.
Kelley McClure extended the EA lead to 13-5 by sealing his four-point play with a free throw. Ingerson put back a Bailey miss to score his first Wolverine basket at 13:42. A second consecutive three-pointer by McClure extended the EA lead to 16-7; another foul on the play gave him an attempt for the four point play, but the freebie was missed.
Ingerson then hit the first three of the season and his young career. Moments later, at 12:34, Bailey capped off a streak of seven straight freshman points with Michigan's first slam of the season, skying over two EA defenders for the two points. Jones continued the Wolverines' tear, finding his spot from three to close the EA lead to 16-15 a minute later.
After a timeout, sophomore Avery Queen (Moreno Valley, Calif./Redemption Christian Academy [N.Y.]) continued his team's run with a three of his own to tie the game. Threes fell from all directions as Ingerson hit his second and the team's third straight three-pointer as Michigan took its first lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the half, 21-20. Some stingy defense from the Wolverines kept their one-point lead, with freshman Bailey spearheading the effort and forcing an EA turnover. Bailey finished the game second on the team with seven rebounds.
The EA All-Stars were unable to pull close due to some sloppy play on their offensive end, including three offensive fouls and a traveling call. Young sent a hook shot into the bucket at one end of the court and then followed it with a rejection in the defensive end to keep the All-Stars off the board. Groninger's three pushed the Wolverine run. Mike Gotfredson followed his free throw with a steal to set up Groninger's second three that extended Michigan's run to 13-0 with 6:09 remaining on the clock. Michigan's stingy defense forced another EA All-stars offensive mistake, however Shaun Compton ended Michigan's run moments later, at 4:50, with the streak at 15-2.
An acrobatic layup by Jones put the Maize and Blue ahead by 15. The small forward flew underneath the basket from the left side and laid the ball in as he came out on the right. Jones then connected from the arc for his fifth consecutive points. Groninger attempted to push the Michigan lead past 22 with a last-second three-point shot in transition off of a Queen steal. He missed, however, and the Wolverines went into the locker room with a 50-28 advantage, outscoring the EA All Stars 29-6 in the half's final 13 minutes.
Entering the second frame, Michigan was unable to find the same rhythm it had going into the break, turning the ball over on its first three possessions. Senior Rotolu Adebiyi (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron HS) turned things around though with a pretty spin in the lane and a nice layin, set up by Groninger. Young's second block, at 17:42, swung the momentum back in the Wolverines' favor and Young finished what he began on the other end of the court with an authoritative dunk.
Groninger responded to Richard Davis' three-pointer with back-to-back triples of his own to make the score 60-41, in a flurry of action that concluded at 15:34. Two minutes later, an impressive inside stutter-step by the freshman Ingerson allowed him to advance to the basket for the hoop and the harm, converting his free throw to get three points on the layin to keep the Wolverines on a roll at 66-43.
EA Sports buckled down, however, embarking on a 9-2 run, but the Wolverines would not be denied in their offensive end. Groninger followed a Jones miss with the tap-in at 9:14 and then Jones scored two of his seven at the line after forcing EA center Ed Craft to foul him.
At 7:44 Young's third block of the game reasserted the Maize and Blue's presence on defense. Queen continued the trend with a steal in the defensive zone and then pushed the ball down the court and dished to Groninger, who hit his first of his two consecutive threes at 6:49. Former Michigan forward/center Asselin fouled out on Michigan's next offensive possession.
The U-M cagers electrified the crowd at 3:50 as Young sent his defensive rebound to an open Queen on the right flank. Queen pushed the ball across midcourt and into the lane with a 3-on-1 advantage. He then dished the ball to Bailey on a no-look pass that baffled the lone EA defender. Bailey slammed the ball home, drawing a foul in the process.
Bailey continued to have the hot hand, hitting a three as the shot clock expired with just under two minutes remaining in the game to add to the Wolverines' lead.
Michigan hosts Nike Elite next Sunday, Nov. 11, at Crisler Arena in its final exhibition game of the season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423