The Michigan basketball team ran away from Hillsdale on Saturday for a 92-68 win. Here are Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ season opener.
1) Stedman Lowry paces Hillsdale to 15-6 lead
Derrick Walton said Hillsdale “hit us in the mouth” early in Saturday’s regular-season opener. The Chargers jumped out to a 15-6 lead courtesy of Stedman Lowry’s 11 points in the first five minutes.
Lowry missed on Hillsdale’s first possession, but then, he got hot. The redshirt freshman made four straight shots to stun the Crisler Center crowd.
After hitting a jumper, he got separation from Kameron Chatman — who got caught on a screen — on an inbounds play to sink an open three-pointer. Then, he hit a contested look over Walton in transition, cut behind Mark Donnal for an easy layup. But his most impressive shot came with 15:22 left in the half, when he elevated over Caris LeVert from well beyond the arc to for a deep three-pointer.
The nine-point lead was Hillsdale’s largest of the night, but Lowry scored just four points in the last 35 minutes of the game.
“We had no scouting report on (him) because he redshirted last year,” John Beilein said after the game. “We changed his gap from sort of a regular gap to overplay him a little bit.”
2) Wolverines heat up from outside
Michigan started 1-for-8 from the floor, but Hillsdale couldn’t shut down Michigan’s talented shooters for long.
After Walton hit the Wolverines’ first three with 15:41 left in the first half, the Wolverines went on a tear from outside, making three of their four attempts from beyond the arc within the next three minutes.
It began with Caris LeVert driving to the basket and forcing Lowry away from Zak Irvin. The junior guard dished it out to Irvin, who sank the open look from the corner. Donnal recorded a steal on the ensuing defensive series, and he ran the court, got a feed with his back to the basket and found an unmarked LeVert in the same corner.
After Spike Albrecht passed from the paint to the same corner to get Walton a clean outside look, Irvin feigned a three of his own to drive by Rhett Smith and make an acrobatic layup for Michigan’s first lead of the day.
3) Chatman struggles, but displays positive flashes
As expected, Chatman was the only true freshman to start for the Wolverines. He made only one of seven field-goal attempts on the afternoon, in part because he frequently drove to the basket and shot through traffic instead of dishing to open teammates.
His night was encapsulated in one series of plays. Midway through the first half, Chatman made a nice move to the basket but had a lay-in attempt blocked by Kyle Cooper. The last player back on defense, the forward tipped a pass away from Nick Archer for a steal. Using a smooth behind-the-back dribble to blow by Zach Miller, he drew a foul and made a tough layup over Archer.
Chatman finished with four points and four steals in 30 minutes. It was an up-and-down game for the 6-foot-7 freshman, but his offensive talent is still obvious and the Wolverines will give him room to grow.
4) Steals extend Michigan lead
Michigan’s offense is hard enough to stop without giving away free points. For a team like Hillsdale, live ball turnovers are a recipe for disaster.
With just less than eight minutes left in the first half, Michigan held a slim four-point lead over the Chargers. That changed quickly, though as the Wolverines recorded three-straight steals and easy baskets in transition.
The run began with a familiar Albrecht steal as the junior guard jumped a passing lane for an uncontested layup. On Hillsdale’s next possession, Irvin tipped a pass away from Garrett Jones for a powerful slam. Then, Chatman had one of his four steals by intercepting a Cody Smith pass, leading to a Walton layup.
The series put the Wolverines up by double-digits for the first time, and they stretched the lead to 17 by halftime and never looked back.
5) Michigan feeds Donnal in second half
Though Mark Donnal played 14 minutes in the first half, the redshirt freshman had a relatively quiet offensive performance, attempting only one field-goal attempt to complement four offensive rebounds.
That changed in the second half, though, as the Wolverines began to establish the center as an inside presence.
With six minutes left in the game, he got free on a pick-and-roll, making a layup off a nice feed from Walton. He also got feeds into the paint from LeVert and in transition from Walton, getting him to the free-throw line twice in the second half.
But perhaps his biggest moment came on the long baseline jumper he made with less than seven minutes remaining in the contest. Donnal shot the mid-range jumper with confidence, showing off the element of his game that makes him unique among Michigan’s post players.
Donnal finished with nine points — fourth most on the team — in 26 minutes, adding four rebounds, two steals and a block.