Michigan had a little trouble in its opening game of the 2014 NCAA tournament, but the No. 2 seed got its act together late to defeat No. 15 Wofford by a score of 57-40.
The No. 2 seed awaits the winner of No. 7 Texas and No. 10 Arizona State in the round of 32 with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.
Nik Stauskas was the leading scorer for the Wolverines with 15 points. Glenn Robinson III did most of his damage in the first half, but he finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Jordan Morgan also helped out with his second double-double of the year.
Karl Cochran had a great effort for the Terriers with 17 points, but he only managed to go 8-of-21 from the field, including 1-of-10 from the three-point line.
While Wofford did a great job of keeping things close throughout this contest, it did not seem like it would be a competitive game early. After the underdogs scored the first four points of the game, Michigan showcased its ability with a great run, via Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
Michigan was on a 20-4 run before Wofford's last basket.— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) March 20, 2014
At this point, the Terriers were having a hard time getting anything into the basket:
Wofford has missed its last 10 shots. #BrickCity— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) March 20, 2014
Thanks to some sloppy ball-handling, the Wolverines were not able to truly pull away before halftime. However, they still were in good shape thanks to some lights-out shooting:
Wofford trails Michigan 34-20 at the break...Wolverines shooting a blistering 64% from the field #MarchMadness— Ricardo LeCompte (@RicardoLeCompte) March 21, 2014
Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press pointed out the strong performance of Robinson in the first half:
Glenn Robinson showing his versatility. Has 11 points, a post up, a three and a midrange on the last three attempts— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) March 20, 2014
Michigan then appeared set to pull away with an 18-point lead shortly after intermission, though, this did not last long:
8-0 run by Wofford. Lead down to 10— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) March 21, 2014
Wofford kept the score close as neither side was able to score with any regularity in the second half. In reality, things could have been much worse for the favored team, as noted by Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News:
Wofford is 0-for-14 on 3s, otherwise this really would be sticky for Michigan.— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) March 21, 2014
The deficit got as close as eight with under seven minutes remaining, but the Wolverines closed strong with a 14-5 run to escape with a win that was much closer than it seemed.
Defense was the important thing for Michigan to improve upon heading into the tournament after showcasing one of the nation's best offenses throughout the year. John Beilein explained the situation to Rod Beard of The Detroit News:
There are really good days and then there are days where individually all you need is one guy to not be in the right position or one guy not to come out in the right stance. It all breaks down within seconds.
We have to keep focused on defense or we will go home very early; it’s really important that we do this. If we don’t, it’s a great lesson learned but this is not the way we want to learn it.
It certainly appeared that the defense did its job by holding Wofford to 34 percent shooting, including 1-of-19 from behind the arc.
On the other hand, Thomas Beindit of 247Sports.com argues that Michigan's success had more to do with luck than anything else on that end of the court:
If Wofford could shoot, Michigan would be in big trouble tonight. Let's just say that.— Thomas Beindit (@tbeindit) March 21, 2014
Still, the head coach was proud of his team's effort after the game:
Beilein: We were able to get a win basically with our defense today and that's something not a lot of people would say if they watch all yr.— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) March 21, 2014
Either way, it is clear that the Big Ten regular-season champions will need a better effort on both sides of the court if it wants to continue making a run in the Big Dance.
The Wolverines will move onto the third round to face the winner of Texas and Arizona State. Both of these teams possess plenty of size inside, something that can give Michigan trouble.
If either team finds a way to score in the paint and get offensive rebounds, the Wolverines could end up having a tough time advancing to the Sweet 16.
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