It wasn't surprising that Michigan won the game against NAIA Concordia College by a large margin. It was the way they took hold of the game. There were several things that stood out -- but the staple was the defensive effort that they embraced. Coach Beilein will find many things to work on from this game, but he was somewhat pleased with his defense.
"We had some moments there where we played pretty good defense," Coach B said. "Glenn, Jon and Jordan Are setting that example right out front. When you see Glenn getting after it like he can and like he does everybody sort of picks up. And then you bring Caris off the bench. And Nik, if anybody is watching Nik, knows that like most freshmen and sophomores, he's at a different level defensively."
With the coaching staff making defense a priority, it is up to the players to not only follow through on being coached up but also improve on their own time as well.
"Defensively is where we have to get our work so that is something I have tried to improve on during the off-season," said Stauskas. "I am trying to get more deflections and get my hands on a few more balls, and I was able to do that a few times tonight."
In a game against an inferior opponent, sometimes play can tend to get sloppy, especially with young players who are still trying to find their way. Last night there were some bumps on along the road, but, for such a young group, continuity was there for most of the game.
"We passed the ball really well today 1-5," said Beilein. "Sharing the ball we had 26 assist and that was incredible. The guys did a good job of seeing each other. They did a good job of cutting harder than any team at this point in the year that I have coached, and that just opens the floor."
This team's mindset was quite impressive in the way they decided to come out and attack Concordia. Watching how comfortable and tough Michigan played sets up expectations of what this group should expect from themselves with each outing. Glenn Robinson put it quite bluntly when discussing just what this team wants to bring to the court with each performance.
"Our mentality is to dominate right at the start," Robinson said. "We are not letting up on anybody. I don't care if it is Concordia or if it's Michigan State; we have to have that mentality."
Caris LeVert played very well last night; he is one of the players that will be counted on to help move this team in the right direction. Stauskas talked about what it was like out there playing along with Levert.
"It's a lot of fun; I love playing with Caris. He had 10 assists. Offensively it works pretty well, and defensively you know having that length definitely helps us."
Some observations from last night:
The much anticipated debut of point guard Derrick Walton did not disappoint. His first minutes were shaky but he more than made up for it as the game went on. On three straight possessions, Derrick made a three, got a steal, made a lay-up and then dropped an assist to a teammate for a lay-up. The more he played, the more at ease he was out on the floor.
Stauskas seems to have really improved with his overall game; his ability to get in the lane and score should give defenders something to think about. I just like his overall confidence, his effort on defense and the hustle that he plays with, should bode well for the Maize and Blue.
The post players Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford and Max Beilfeldt were active both on the offensive and defensive end. Certainly you would like to see them be more a part of the offense scoring-wise, but that will work itself out. With Mitch McGary not playing, it is helping to allow the other post players more time to get better and contribute.
Now, I haven't forgotten who Michigan played, and yes it was a game they should have won. But as I said before it's the way they won. In the first test of the season, Michigan showed that they have the chance to be really good on defense. Offensively, they have more players contributing and each player has added multiple things to their game. As they get into the season against stiff competition, all of this will play itself out. No, they shouldn't beat their chest over a victory against an NAIA opponent. But nevertheless, it was a good start for a young Wolverine team with a little bit to prove.