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Michigan’s defense, big men dominate Providence in blowout win


 

The Michigan basketball team continued its impressive start to the season, and even captured a tournament title in the process.

The 18th-ranked Wolverines (5-0 overall) held their fourth team under 50 points in five games and saw career-high scoring efforts from Ignas Brazdeikis (20 points) and Jon Teske (17). The end result was a 66-47 romp over Providence to take home the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall-of-Fame Tip Off tournament.

Story of the game, first half: While Michigan continued its season-long trend of defending well, the Wolverines also continued their season-long trend of struggling in the half-court offense. Unable to make even close-range shots in a 4-for-11 start from the field, Michigan squandered its excellent defensive play. The Friars struggled to get open looks off, making just 3 of 17 looks while Michigan tallied three blocks and four takeaways in the stretch, but Providence found itself only down seven points.

Then, the Friars, who brought plenty of fans and their band and spirit squads playing only an hour away from home, made their run. With Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews out with two first-half fouls, Providence made 5 of 7 shots including multiple 3s while the Wolverines coughed up possessions against the Friars’ press defense. With 4:24 to go, Michigan only led, 21-20 as the local crowd took over Mohegan Sun Arena.

But Jon Teske, in the midst of a career-best game, stopped the run with his first-career 3-pointer. That sparked the Wolverines, and allowed Michigan to spread its offensive sets around the court en route to a 14-2 run to close the half and turn a battle into a blowout.

Story of the game, second half: Facing a do-or-die sequence, Providence found the net four times early in the second half to draw the deficit back into with single-digits and send Matthews out again with a third foul.

But Michigan, whose offensive chemistry and passing prowess look much-improved from a week ago, quieted any comeback efforts when Isaiah Livers hit back-to-back wide-open 3s to make it a 15-point game.

The Friars didn’t go quietly, per se, but as their shooting woes continued, frustration mounted for Providence on both ends of the court. The game was effectively decided during an 8-0 Michigan run in which the Friars missed six straight shots (including a layup and tip-in attempt) and committed three turnovers to give the Wolverines a 20-point lead.

MVP: On Saturday, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis had the worst game of his collegiate career, netting just five points and struggling to make a sizable impact on either end of the court. Sunday, however, was a different story. The freshman wing was active early and often, leading the team with 11 points in the first half, en route to his first 20-point game and a team-high seven rebounds and two steals. The performance carried extra value due to Matthews’ foul trouble and five total points.

Key stat: Michigan held Providence to a 29.8 effective field-goal rate, the fourth-lowest the Wolverines have allowed under John Beilein and well worse than any high-major team has fared. The Friars also made just 2 of 18 3-point attempts, the seventh-lowest rate a team has posted against Beilein at Michigan.

Takeaway at the buzzer: We once again saw that Michigan’s offensive issues has the potential to keep struggling teams within striking distance longer than expected. But breakout games for Brazdeikis and Teske show that Michigan has multiple ways it can thrive on offense, and gave the Wolverines their fifth blowout win of the season.

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