Tommy Amaker's veteran lineup of Dion Harris, Lester Abram, Ronald Coleman, Brent Petway, and Courtney Sims sputtered out of the blocks Thursday night, going scoreless in the first three minutes of the contest. The Wolverines attempted to exploit their size advantage by going inside to Sims, but the 6-11 senior was unable to convert a few shots from point-blank range. The home team finally got things going when Abram knocked down two consecutive three-pointers to spark a 10-0 run that gave them 10-3 at the 14:49 mark.
Minutes later, the Warriors converted a layup on the break and a three pointer cut the lead back to two, but that's as close as they would get. The Wolverines blew the game open with a 19-3 run, keyed by an eight-point outburst from Dion Harris. The Detroit native knocked down two three-pointers during the run, and did a good job of pushing the ball in keeping with Amaker's "high octane" mantra.
Reed Baker contributed to the run as well, scoring his first points in a Michigan uniform by draining an open triple attempt off a kickout from senior Brent Petway. The bucket calmed a few nervous jitters for the Florida native. Wayne State made his life difficult early by playing tight defense as he brought the ball up court. It initially paid off for the visitors. A Wayne State guard picked Bakers pocket cleanly at halfcourt, leading to a run-out on the other end. Baker would have the last laugh though. The youngster would later show what kind of weapon he could be for the Maize and Blue.
Coming out of the intermission, Michigan expanded upon a 20 point halftime lead (36-16) thanks again to their up-tempo play. Amaker put a different lineup on the court to start the second half, opting to go small by moving Sims to the bench and inserting Jerret Smith at the point guard. The switch paid dividends immediately. Smith rapidly advanced the ball up-court with passes over the defense to assist on the first two buckets of the half for the home team. Two more three-pointers from Abram and Harris completed a 13-5 run that made the score 49-21 with just under 16 minutes to go in the game.
The "Reed Baker Show" started again at the 10:28 mark when the freshman nailed his second triple of the night off an assist from Jerret Smith. The tandem hooked up for another triple two minutes later to push the lead over thirty for the first time all evening (64-32). Baker completed his display of long range marksmanship with less than three minutes to go when freshman Ekpe Udoh kicked the ball out of the post for another open opportunity that his freshman cohort made good on.
"I was a little nervous, being in my first college game, but my teammates really calmed me down," Baker said. "Dion and Jerret really set a good example and I look up to those guys. They really helped me settle down and get into the rhythm of things. I work on my shot and that is something I consider myself pretty good at. It definitely was not luck because I work hard at it. I was just fortunate to make the shots, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. Tonight, luck was on my side I guess."
On the game the Wolverines were led by 19 points from Lester Abram on 6/9 shooting (3/4 from the three-point line) and 13 points, five assists, and zero turnovers from Dion Harris. Reed Baker finished with 13 points on 4/4 shooting from beyond the arc. Brent Petway led the defensive effort with eight rebounds and four blocks.
Amaker was pleased with the overall effort his team displayed, especially the strong play at point guard from Dion Harris and Jerret Smith. However, he still observed a few things on both ends of the court that his team can improve on.
"We talk about three things all the time -- great effort, trying to be unselfish, and seeing if we can execute.," said Amaker. "I thought the first two things were there, but execution still needs some work. Certainly, the effort by these kids tonight was tough, and the fact that they were unselfish passing the ball, and looking for the open man and taking care of the ball. We talked about that on the pre-game show. We've got to value the ball because it's a smaller, quicker team. Dion and Jerret both played well at point guard -- nine assists and zero turnovers between both of them -- that's a pretty good effort by us."
"I thought we did well (defensively)," Amaker continued, "but I was not impressed that we put them on the foul line so much, especially in the first half. But I thought we gave great effort to guard. I thought we rushed them and had them hurried. We had some blocked shots in the first half. Hopefully we can continue to play that way when we give that kind of effort. But also we need to play a little smarter defensively, and I think as time goes on we will."
The Wolverines will resume exhibition play Sunday afternoon at Crisler Arena with they take on Michigan Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 PM EST.