Nov. 5, 2013
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Michigan took to the court Monday night with a freshman, two sophomores, a redshirt junior and its lone senior player, forward Jordan Morgan. Wayne State, on the other hand, started three seniors -- guards Chene Phillips and Michael Martin, and forward Bryan Coleman. Although the Wolverines would secure a comfortable 79-60 win, facing the veteran Warriors proved to be the first test of the young team's composure against a more experienced squad.
"We know we've got young teammates," Morgan said. "It's important for the people with experience to keep everyone together and stay unified against such a veteran team."
Unity was a key factor to Michigan's win in a game that not only saw four players (sophomores Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, and Caris LeVert, and freshman Zak Irvin) score in double digits, but required adjustments throughout to keep the threat of a mature opponent at bay.
Wayne State scored the game's first three points on a three-point field goal from Coleman. While the Wolverines would quickly catch up, their lead was as narrow as five points with 9:27 left in the half.
"Playing Wayne State you get the same thing every time -- quick talented players and guards," said head coach John Beilein. "Boy, they really played us well today, and we had to play a great first half to get some separation."
The Warrior's experience was clear on both ends of the court. Phillips was named to the GLIAC All-Defensive team for the 2012-13 season and helped lead the team in a solid defense performance against the Wolverines.
"I think that they played really great defense," Beilein said of the Warriors, who kept Michigan to a 39 percent field goal percentage (9-for-23) and 20 percent (2-for-10) three-point percentage in the second half.
"You've got to be solid and be patient," Morgan added. "There was a few times where we shot a few quick shots. But they're going to sit down defensively and stay solid the whole possession."
Wayne State just didn't provide challenges for Michigan's offense. Coleman scored a game-high 25 points on the night, 17 of which came in the first half.
"We noticed at halftime he had over half their points," LeVert said. "So we just keyed in on him in the second half."
"We changed the way we switched," Morgan added. "We gave them a little less space, made them drive it a little more."
Several players, including LeVert, guarded Coleman after halftime, making these adjustments as the game progressed, and holding him to just eight points in the second half.
But where there is adversity there is also opportunity.
"It's good for us to play a team like that that's going to challenge us defensively like they did today," Beilein said.
As the Wolverines continue their season through one of the nation's toughest preseason schedules and into Big Ten conference play, they will face many teams with an experienced squad. Monday night gave Michigan a chance to prepare for what it will see as the season begins on Friday night (Nov. 8).
"Our (assistant) coach, LaVall (Jordan) talks to us a lot of times about how we're young, but we can still be mature," LeVert said. "I think we took that approach today."
Talented players like Coleman will continue to pose a threat. In some instances, these may be nationally renowned players. But playing the Warriors tested the Wolverines' ability to adjust their defense to players with a hot hand whose game they may be less familiar with.
"To be honest, we didn't have a lot of film or games to scout on Wayne State as a team," Morgan said. "Coleman was looking for a shot, so we made some little adjustments here and there after getting a better feel for the player he was."
"Coleman had a really high talent level," added LeVert. "I think that will prepare us for the upcoming games."
While the Wolverine's ended the night with a 19-point victory, playing a poised veteran team early in the season will largely help them discern where there is room for improvement.
"We can watch the film," LeVert said. "We'll find things and we'll improve. I think this game will help us a lot more."
Game Recap: Balanced, Bench Scoring Carry U-M Past Wayne State