Dec. 13, 2013
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By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Last Saturday (Dec. 7) Michigan defeated Houston Baptist at Crisler Center, 107-53. The 54-ponint margin of victory was U-M's largest under head coach John Beilein. Additionally, the contest saw Michigan tie the school record for most three-pointers made in a game (16).
"We really played well," said Beilein. "They had just come off a win over Rice and a win over Army. They've been playing a lot of zone, and we've established ourselves as a pretty above average zone team. So we got out quick on them. And then, once our defense tightened up, we were able to get out and run and that really provided a lot of points."
Sophomore Nik Stauskas led Michigan with 25 points, going 6-of-9 from behind the arc. Also scoring in double digits for the Wolverines were sophomore Glenn Robinson III (17), freshmen Zak Irvin (14) and Derrick Walton Jr. (14) and sophomore Mitch McGary (12).
Michigan shared the ball well, recording 26 assists on 36 made baskets. Sophomore guard Spike Albrecht and McGary each dished out a team-high six assists. McGary impressed many with his ability to push the ball in transition and find open teammates.
"His pass selection and his decision making is something he wanted to work on and I wanted him to work on," Beilein said. "The fast break is a unique opportunity. You've got to stop, you might have numbers advantage. It's not the time for a turnover. You don't get many advantages in a game, and when you do have those advantages you want to really be smart with the ball. And he certainly did that Saturday."
After a week to rest and prepare, the team will welcome Arizona, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, to Crisler Center this Saturday (Dec. 14).
Arizona is playing in its second year under head coach Sean Miller. Last season, Miller led the Wildcats to a 27-8 record (12-6 Pac-12) and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16.
Arizona remains undefeated this year at 10-0. The Wildcats share two common opponents with the Wolverines, Long Beach State and Duke. Arizona defeated the Blue Devils, 72-66, at Madison Square Garden to capture the NIT Season Tip-Off championship.
Arizona's young, but talented, frontcourt has been dominant this season. Six-foot-8 freshman Aaron Gordon, MVP of last season's McDonald's All-American game, has proved his skill at the college level, averaging 11.9 points and leading his team with 8.5 rebounds per game. He is joined by sophomores Brandon Ashley, who leads the team in field goal percentage (61 percent) while averaging 12.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, and seven-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski, who averages 9.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
But, while Arizona's frontcourt combines for most of the Wildcats' points, the backcourt provides them with experience and leadership.
Junior point guard T.J. McConnell is running Arizona's offense for the first season this season, after transferring from Duquesne. Not only does McConnell dish out 6.7 assists per game on the offensive end, but he is also one of the Wildcats' most important perimeter defenders. With Duquesne, he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team, having recorded 86 steals in 2011-12.
Arizona's backcourt also features one of the team's most experienced players and the team's leading scorer, junior Nick Johnson (15.7 points per game).
"That backcourt of a fourth- and third-year guy is really what's making them go right now," said Beilein. "Their front line is very young. And they do good things: they offensive rebound 41 percent of the missed shots, they have a long good team with multiple push men, they see the floor very well -- but, I think the backcourt is really what has made them special so far this year."
Other players contributing significant minutes for Arizona are freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and sophomore guard Gabe York.
Michigan has played Arizona eight times in its history with a 2-6 overall record. However, Saturday will mark the first time that the Wildcats have faced the Wolverines on their home court.
"It's going to be a challenge for us, but it's going to be a great event," said Beilein. "It's going to be a great opportunity for us to get a quality win. And I know Crisler will be jacked up on Saturday."