The Michigan Wolverines and head coach Juwan Howard scored another signature victory Friday, defeating the No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs 82-64 at Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas, to win the Battle 4 Atlantis men's basketball tournament.
Michigan improved to 7-0, while 8-1 Gonzaga suffered its first loss.
Four of Michigan's five starters scored in double digits, including Isaiah Livers (21 points), Jon Teske (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Zavier Simpson (13 points, 13 assists). Killian Tillie led the way for Gonzaga with 20 points.
Michigan upset No. 6 North Carolina in the semifinals, while Gonzaga needed overtime to beat No. 11 Oregon, so the Wolverines had momentum despite being unranked. And they outplayed the Bulldogs in nearly every facet, shooting 54 percent from the field while holding Gonzaga to 40 percent shooting.
Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports and Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic, among others, praised the job Howard has done early in his tenure as Michigan's head coach:
Nick Baumgardner @nickbaumgardner
This used to be the time of year when folks patted John Beilein on the back for reloading a team that lost a ton. But Juwan Howard, his staff and the roster probably need six or seven pats on the back. Michigan looks totally bought in and connected early. Impressive.
Michigan took over around the midway point of the first half and owned an 11-point halftime lead. Gonzaga whittled the deficit to two early in the second half, but that was as close as the Zags would get.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Michigan's success was the play of Teske. He was dominant inside and helped neutralize Filip Petrusev, who shot just 4-of-16 from the field and finished with nine points.
Jackson Frank of The Athletic noted that Michigan owned the paint and made life difficult for Gonzaga:
Teske led the way in that regard, and Tim McCormick of Fox Sports Detroit gave the senior a major endorsement:
With an intimidating center in the 7'1" Teske and a balanced attack that saw six players score at least eight points, Michigan has the right mix to be a contender for the Big Ten and national titles. Back-to-back wins over UNC and Gonzaga will undoubtedly result in the Wolverines being ranked next week, and they may even vault into the Top 10.
Another huge test is on the horizon, as they face the undefeated No. 2 Louisville Cardinals on the road Tuesday. Meanwhile, Gonzaga will be heavily favored Wednesday when it hosts Texas Southern before three straight games against ranked opponents in Washington, Arizona and North Carolina.