ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The 18th-ranked Wolverines opened their season against Ferris State, a team that went to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 last season. The Bulldogs returned only five players from that team, but through much of their game against the Wolverines, it didn't appear they lacked much.
Michigan was able to pull away in the second half for a 59-33 victory, but it was after a first-half performance where the Wolverines scored just 22 points. They also struggled early in the second half, scoring 13 points through the first 10 minutes.
"Our defense is a little ahead of our offense right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We're trying to figure out ways to score, and it'll be something we work on diligently. … As long as we play defense like we did today, no matter who we're playing against we'll have a chance to be in those games."
1. Player of the game: Stu Douglass
The senior guard unexpectedly started and scored 14 points to pace the Wolverines. Douglass shot 5-of-10 and grabbed five rebounds, all on the defensive end.
"[I was] more comfortable with myself, more comfortable with the offense," Douglass said. "That's what the team needs."
Beilein had announced on Thursday that freshman Trey Burke would be starting for the Wolverines at point guard over Douglass. However, Burke arrived late to Friday's walkthrough. As a result, Beilein sat him for the first nine minutes of the game.
Beilein said on Thursday that his decision to start Burke was to help Douglass hunt more shots and provide scoring punch off the bench. Douglass started the Wolverines' exhibition game but was held scoreless. But his double-digit effort against Ferris State didn't sway Beilein.
"One of the things I really want Stu to do is think like a 2-guard instead of always running the team," Beilein said. "I want him to hunt things. I really value a guy who comes off the bench that can score."
2. The game changed when ... the Wolverines started playing inside the arc.
After a half in which the Wolverines shot 28 percent from inside the arc and 24 percent from outside the arc, Beilein stressed to his team that it must attack the inside in order to clear up space for its shooters.
"When we're not shooting well … that's when you have to take it to the basket, you've got to throw the ball inside," Beilein said. "You can't be afraid to back cut, and you've got to get to the foul line."
The Wolverines shot a tidy 52 percent inside the arc and 46 percent from 3 in the second half. And Michigan finished the final 10 minutes on a 21-3 run, sparked largely by the inside play of sophomores Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan.
Smotrycz believed the offensive production was largely due to the Wolverines' fast-break play. He said the Wolverines tried to dictate the tempo of the game by speeding up the Bulldogs' offense and capitalizing on errors in order to get more of a transition game going.
"That's how we want to play," Beilein said. "But we have to get stops, and we have to handle the ball efficiently when we get those stops."
Tim Hardaway Jr. hit Michigan's first shot then was held scoreless the rest of the half. He had nine points in the second to finish with 12 points (4 of 12 shooting) and three assists. Beilein said he was pleased with Hardaway Jr.'s shot selection. "One of his strengths is that he can really get his own shot and we want to make sure that doesn't become a weakness -- that he takes guarded shots sometimes when he could drive the ball," Beilein said. ... Beilein said Morgan and sophomore Jon Horford played tentatively. Horford didn't attempt a shot and went scoreless, while Morgan had seven points. "They're just having trouble right now finishing in crowds," Beilein said. "We have to get that part of our offense really going." ... Junior guard Eso Akunne was the second player off the bench for Beilein, though he played only seven minutes. However, he grabbed four rebounds in the best rebounding performance during his career. "He has been practicing well," Beilein said. "Some people needed a rest so we got him in there, and he did a good job."
Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @chanteljennings.