Michigan basketball team finds offense, opens Maui Invitational with 73-61 victory against Memphis
Updated at 7:55 p.m.
LAHAINA, Hawaii — The Michigan basketball team headed to Maui looking for its first real test of the season.
On Monday, it passed with flying colors.
The 15th-ranked Wolverines got 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Tim Hardaway Jr. and the Wolverines befuddled fast-paced Memphis, the country's eighth-ranked team, with a 73-61 win during the opening round of the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"Memphis presents some very big challenges. We hadn't seen anything like that," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Our scout team worked really hard, but they can't duplicate (Memphis). We had some sloppy moments.
"But, boy, we had some really good moments as well."
With the win, Michigan (4-0) earned a rematch with Duke at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Blue Devils eliminated Michigan from the NCAA Tournament last year.
As a team, Michigan played its best offensive basketball of the young season, finishing 27-for-50 shooting.Freshman point guard Trey Burke, spending most of the game going against former five-star recruit Joe Jackson, finished with 14 points and four assists in his fourth collegiate game.
Burke and Hardaway stole the show from Jackson and Memphis sophomore guard Will Barton. While Jackson and Barton combined to shoot 6-for-21, Hardaway and Burke dominated throughout.
"It was just preparation," Hardaway said. "We talked with our coaches and we were just finding easy ways to score on offense.
"We took advantage of it."
While the offense was improved, Michigan's defense was same old, same old.
The Wolverines confused and frustrated the up-tempo Tigers all afternoon -- mixing up zone defenses with sound man-to-man and limiting Memphis (1-1) to 33.3 percent shooting.
After a back-and-forth first half, Michigan took control in the final minutes before halftime. A Hardaway jumper capped a 10-0 run to make it 37-31 with 31 seconds to play. After Burke swatted Jackson's runner at the horn, the Wolverines entered the locker rooms with the momentum.
Barton and Michigan senior guard Zack Novak engaged in a minor scuffle at midcourt on the way to the locker rooms. Cooler heads prevailed and both players were issued technical fouls, but it was clear from that point forward that Michigan was in control.
"We didn't want the score to be 100-90, which is how it was going for a little bit," Novak said. "They made a little run and our tough shots stopped falling. But we gathered together, got back with it, slowed down and just got good shots.
"We played our basketball."
The Wolverines' momentum carried over into the second half. Michigan extended the lead to eight after a Novak 3-pointer two minutes in.
Memphis got back within five after a jumper from Barton, but Michigan answered with a 7-0 run, capped by a deep 3-pointer from reserve guard Eso Akunne to go up 53-41 with 12:24 to play.
"We stopped and embraced the moment when Eso hit that shot," Beilein said of the Ann Arbor native. "That young man has worked his tail off all summer long."
The lead would grow as high as 14 after Hardaway dropped in a pair of foul shots with 6:45 left, but Memphis didn't go away, getting it back to nine after a Charles Carmouche layup with 4:10 left.
Michigan put its foot down from there, though.
Hardaway hit a pair of foul shots before Evan Smotrycz buried a high-floating 3-pointer from the corner to make it a 70-56 game with just 3:20 to play, effectively icing the game.
Carmouche finished with 14 points to lead the Tigers.
Smotrycz finished with seven points and a game-high eight rebounds, while Novak pitched in with eight points before fouling out.
Michigan shot 15-for-25 in the first half and held Memphis to 11-for-31 shooting.
After struggling to out-rebound the likes of Towson and Western Illinois, the Wolverines dominated the glass against the Tigers, holding a 38-29 rebounding edge.
Michigan has passed the first leg of its Hawaiian gauntlet, setting up the rematch with Duke.
The Blue Devils were just tipping off against Tennessee (they won, 77-67) when Novak said he really didn't care who the team's upcoming opponent was. The Wolverines will be ready for anyone, he said.
"When you're at the Maui Invitational, you don't need any extra motivation to get up for a game," he said. "Whoever is on the schedule (Tuesday), we're going to be ready to go."
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