That was easy.
No. 2 Michigan basketball set a program record for best start to a season with an 80-60 blowout win over Northwestern on Sunday night at Crisler Center.
The Wolverines (17-0, 6-0 Big Ten) rode center Jon Teske and point guard Zavier Simpson in the first half; the duo combined to outscore the Wildcats, 29-28, as Michigan took a 50-28 halftime lead.
Three takeaways from Ann Arbor:
Simpson’s hot shooting
Northwestern (10-7, 1-5) began the game by assigning Pete Nance Jr., a 6-foot-10 freshman forward, to guard Zavier Simpson. That didn’t work too well. Neither did the Wildcats’ strategy to leave Simpson open on the perimeter.
In the first matchup between the teams, Simpson couldn’t make Northwestern pay for sagging off of him. And Sunday night, he missed his first two 3s, both from the corner.
But then he hit the next two. And in the second half, he hit another in transition, drained an off-the-dribble 2 and connected on two more 3s — the latter of which was a step-back in a ball-screen action — to finish with a career-high 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting (5-for-10 from 3).
Teske all over the court
Teske’s handprints were all over his team’s win.
He led Michigan with his trademark defense and rebounding. In his first ten minutes of playing time, he had five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
But he also burnt Northwestern with his range, which Teske hasn’t always shown off this season.
In the opening minutes, as Michigan took a 10-0 lead, Teske hit two long 2s. Later, he stepped behind the line and hit a 3, before running back on defense, forcing a miss, and scoring in the post on the ensuing offensive possession.
Then, to the delight of a sellout crowd, Teske hit 3s on two consecutive possessions. He scored 17 first-half points on 7-for-8 shooting, though he didn’t score in the second half.
As their record proves, it’s already difficult to beat the Wolverines. It’s even harder when Teske’s making perimeter shots.
Offense goes cold, but no problem
Michigan went nearly four minutes without scoring any points to start the second half. The Wolverines had six points in the first nine minutes. They picked up six quick team-fouls.
And yet with 11:09 left, Michigan still led by 15.
It’s a testament to what makes this team so hard to beat.
When the offense isn’t clicking, the Wolverines can still count on their defense.
Michigan’s second-half performance wasn’t dynamic, but they still controlled the game.
Northwestern crept within 13 points, and then Charles Matthews dunked while getting fouled and completed the three-point play.
A minute later, the Wildcats cut the deficit to 13 again. This time, Matthews earned a trip to the free-throw line, before Simpson and Isaiah Livers hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
In many of the team’s wins, all the Wolverines have needed are one or two big runs before they hold the opponent at arm’s length for the rest of the game. Sunday’s game was no exception.
Contact Orion Sang: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang.