Marquette had no answer for Michigan's size. Seriously. [Joseph Dressler]
"They're just too big," said Karl Ravech, the ESPN play-by-play man. He was talking about a Michigan basketball team. It was a true statement.
"The defense by Michigan has really been outstanding," Fran Fraschilla added a short time later.
By the second half, the two were discussing how future opponents would handle Michigan's size as Moe Wagner demonstrated precisely why they were on that topic:
MOE WAGNER IS GOOD. pic.twitter.com/W44ug1ypvS
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) November 18, 2016
The key to it all was the insertion of DJ Wilson into the starting lineup in Duncan Robinson's stead. Both players flourished in their new roles. Wilson looked every bit as good as he did in the season's first two games, if not better, tallying his first career double-double with ten points and 13 boards and filling out the box score with a pair of assists and blocks. Robinson came off the bench to match his season point total, hitting 3-of-4 three-point attempts to finish with ten himself. The switch allowed John Beilein to unleash Wilson and pick ideal matchups for Robinson; it paid off immediately.
Michigan jumped out to an early lead due to hot outside shooting and a torrent of Marquette turnovers. Even the big men got into the act, with Wagner, Wilson, and Mark Donnal all connecting on first-half triples. Robinson's pair of first-half bombs got the lead up to double digits, and a strong stretch by Donnal—his tip-in of a Xavier Simpson miss elicited Ravech's comment—helped push the margin up to 24 points at the break.
DJ Wilson dominated the boards. [Dressler]
The Wolverines were able to set it on cruise control for the second half. They eased up a little too much at times, committing some sloppy turnovers to allow Marquette to get as close as 12 points down, but every run was swiftly rebuffed.
The frontcourt was the story of the night, as it should've been: Mark Donnal went 6-for-9 for 15 points, Wilson was everywhere, and Wagner tallied nine points and the SportsCenter posterization. That overshadowed a quietly solid performance from the others. Zak Irvin had his midrange game going early and started knocking down threes, too, on his way to a 16-6-6 stat line marred only by four turnovers.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finished with 15 via frequent trips to the line and some tough twos. Derrick Walton and Xavier Simpson didn't need to score to make an impact. Both played excellent perimeter defense and the offense didn't skip a beat when Walton sat with two fouls early on. Notably, Beilein let Walton re-enter the game with two fouls midway through the half, and he rewarded his coach's confidence by not picking up another the rest of the way.
The resounding victory puts Michigan in tomorrow night's 2K Classic title game against SMU, another team that looks like it will surpass preseason expectations after a comfortable 76-67 win over Pitt in the other semifinal. That game tips at 7 pm on ESPN2. A bigger, burlier Mustangs squad should provide a tougher matchup; if Michigan is able to get through that close to as well as they did tonight's game, it'll be time to get really excited about where this season can go.