So that happened.
Ignas Brazdeikis and Jon Teske(!) led the way with 20 and 17 points respectively, as Michigan notched its fifth comfortable win in five games this season, defeating Providence in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. It was a relatively partisan Providence crowd at the Mohegan Sun, but aside from a run in the first half to get the Friars back in the game, the crowd was subdued. It was a victory that was true to form for Michigan: despite some offensive struggles in the half-court, they managed to score over a point per possession, and their defense made it a miserable day for Providence, who shot just 2-18 from three.
Early on, Brazdeikis kept the Michigan offense afloat, attacking the basket and scoring 9 of Michigan’s first 14 points, and Zavier Simpson did a good job of selectively pushing the tempo. Simpson also did well to get Teske involved offensively; he hit him on the roll for an open dunk for the first possession of the game and worked the pick-and-pop game a little bit to stretch the floor. This was the perfect opportunity for Teske, as the Friar starters all went between 6’5 and 6’9 and switched screens frequently. Even though Teske had some success against that look, it bogged Michigan down for a time in the first half, and Providence pulled within one point as Michigan went cold on the other end.
Teske hit a three late in the shot clock to stem the bleeding and spark a run to end the half for Michigan. The Wolverine was strong during that stretch to put away the game, harassing Providence into some ugly misses, and the offense woke up a little bit: Isaiah Livers made both free throws after getting fouled some distance from the basket, Eli Brooks hit a deep three, Simpson threw in a tough hook high over a shot-blocker, and Brazdeikis scored a layup in transition from Livers. Simpson tried another hook, drew the help, and missed, leaving Teske wide open for a dunk right before the buzzer.
Early in the second half, Providence was very active on the offensive glass - they’d finish with 18 offensive rebounds, good for almost 40% of their misses, as some of Michigan’s wings struggled on the boards - but back-to-back threes from Livers extended the lead to 15 and forced a Friar timeout. From there, the margin was never closer than double digits, and the Wolverines played much of another second half in a stretch of prolonged garbage time. Michigan led by 23 when the reserves were subbed in, mostly due to a late scoring charge from Brazdeikis.
The Friars couldn’t string together more than a few quality possessions at a time, and their best player, Alpha Diallo, made a few nice all-around contributions from the wing, but finished with 10 points on 15 shot equivalents and had more turnovers than assists. Charles Matthews had a rough day of his own offensively, but he was instrumental in shutting down Diallo, though it was a group effort with all of the switching Michigan does on defense. The lineups with Livers at the five were again effective on both ends, even though Teske had a great two-way performance when he was on the floor.
The contours of this win will become familiar to Michigan fans as the season wears on. There were stretches in which the offense labored to generate quality shots, but Michigan got out in transition off of live-ball turnovers and bad misses (largely because of Simpson) and fought their way to an average offensive performance. A couple Wolverines scored effectively (Brazdeikis and Teske) and a couple key scorers were cold (Matthews and Poole). Ultimately, the game turned into a slow-motion blowout because their opponent was held to what will probably be one of its worst scoring outputs of the season (0.73 PPP for Providence). Michigan’s adjusted defensive efficiency is already up to #1 nationally in Kenpom’s metric, and that defensive quality will often give the offense a large margin of error.
[Box score after the JUMP]