Early on, Michigan’s old conference nemesis Bill Carmody and his well-spaced Princeton offense gave the Wolverines some problems. After subbing out Jehyve Floyd, their starting center, and going five-out, the Crusaders went on a bit of a run: they hit four of their first five three-point attempts and led Michigan 18-9 at the second TV timeout. On the other end of the floor, the Wolverines were bogged down against a passive 2-3 zone and couldn’t knock down many of their open outside shots.
John Beilein’s decision to sub in Isaiah Livers at the five after Jon Teske and Austin Davis (who made a brief appearance) struggled to guard out to the three-point line changed the complexion of the game. Holy Cross’s offense completely ground to a halt, and while Michigan’s offense couldn’t find its rhythm until after halftime - the Wolverines shot just 5-24 in the first half - the Crusaders were completely stymied until the end. Behind sophomore wing Connor Niego’s 13 first half points (good for a career high), Holy Cross led 24-18 at the break before Michigan took over.
It was Ignas Brazdeikis who led the charge for the Wolverines. On three of Michigan’s first four second half possessions, Zavier Simpson set up the freshman: first with a drive and kick that led to a driving Brazdeikis layup, then with another assist for three, then with a pass to Iggy on the baseline for a dunk attempt on which he was fouled (before making both free throws). Shortly after, Iggy took a defensive rebound and went weaving through the Holy Cross defense for a coast-to-coast layup; on the next Crusader possession, he got a steal and was fouled on a layup attempt (before making both free throws). In the end, the talented freshman put up an efficient 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists - almost entirely after halftime.
After that initial barrage, Michigan put Holy Cross’s offense to sleep - they were outscored 38-13 in the second stanza and found it tough to get much of anything outside a few scattered layups off the patented Princeton backdoor cuts from the wing and a handful of post-up baskets over Livers. Teske finished with 5 blocks in 21 minutes of action, but it was a collective effort on that end: the top two scoring Crusaders from last season (Floyd and Austin Butler, who scored 26 points in the opener) combined for just four points, and Butler was held to 1-13 shooting. Michigan’s defense was locked in with its typically excellent shot contests, and the ability to switch everything with Livers at the five shut everything down. The three-point luck evened out too. After that 4-5 start, Holy Cross missed the rest of their eight attempts.
Despite the eventually comfortable 19-point margin of victory, Michigan’s offense was still an issue, even though it was better in the second half. Charles Matthews was the leading scorer for the Wolverines, putting up 20 points, although they came on 20 shooting possessions. His scoring early on kept Michigan in it - and he actually had more than half of Michigan’s first half points - and kept it up in the second half, with his customary floaters and mid-range jumpers. Most notably, he was 4-5 from the free throw line (as a team, Michigan was 17-21 and Iggy made all eight of his attempts). Michigan’s two starting wings were definitely the bright spots on offense.
Pretty much everyone else had a rough night. Livers’s activity on the glass generated a handful of extra possessions (and he was fantastic on the defensive end), but he was 2-8 shooting for his 7 points. It was much worse for the guards. Simpson was scoreless, though he did have seven assists to just one turnover; Jordan Poole hit a shot - his first and only of the season - but had two bad turnovers and only scored three points; Eli Brooks didn’t get on the board until a late steal and transition layup. Beilein went with a tight, seven-man rotation as Matthews played pretty much the entire game, and Z / Poole / Brooks / Iggy / Livers / Teske played between 21 and 31 minutes. Only two players scored in double figures, Michigan was just 3-19 from behind the arc against the zone, and the Wolverines were held below a point per possession for the second straight game.
These two tune-up games before a trip to Philly for the national championship rematch against Villanova essentially followed the same script: shoddy offense fueled by poor outside shooting, but phenomenal defense against an overmatched opponent. Michigan’s offense will probably have to pick it up against the Wildcats to have a chance at revenge in that game, but Villanova might not see a better defense all season - Holy Cross can probably attest to that.
[Box Score after the JUMP]