Ann Arbor — The biggest question concern for Michigan entering the season was its shooting.
If Saturday night’s game against Holy Cross was any indication, the Wolverines are still a long way from settling those worries.
But No. 19 Michigan was able to shake a woeful first half and call off the upset alert thanks to a second-half outburst from freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis in a 56-37 win at Crisler Center.
Brazdeikis finished with 19 points, with 15 coming in the first five minutes of the second half, and redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews scored 20 for Michigan (2-0).
After shooting just 20.8 percent (5-for-24) from the field in the first half, Michigan’s offense began to find a rhythm in the final 20 minutes and scored on its first eight possessions thanks in large part to Brazdeikis.
Brazdeikis opened the half with a driving layup before splashing a 3-pointer and knocking down two free throws to get into a groove. Then after junior center Jon Teske split a pair of free throws to start a 23-2 run that would last over 10 minutes, Brazdeikis used a layup to tie it at 30 and two more free throws to give Michigan a 32-30 edge with 16:43 to play — and its first lead since it led 9-8 at the 13:48 mark in the first half.
Brazdeikis continued to provide a needed spark, burying a jumper and two more free throws as Michigan ripped off 15 straight points to pull ahead 42-30 with 11:05 to go.
Matthews, though, helped close the lengthy spurt with a pair of jumpers and two free throws to give the Wolverines a 50-32 advantage with 7:08 to go, which proved to be enough cushion as Michigan led by double digits the rest of the way and held Holy Cross (1-1) to just 13 second-half points.
The first half, though, was an offensive disaster. The teams combined to miss the first nine shots from the field before Holy Cross ripped off a 13-0 run and made five consecutive shots — including three 3-pointers — to take an 18-9 lead with 11:24 left in the first half.
Holy Cross’ Princeton offense — which relies on constant movement and cuts — left Michigan defenders scrambling as the ball movement produced an array of open looks. Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, struggled to dial in against Holy Cross’ zone defense before sophomore guard Jordan Poole ended it with a floater in the lane at the 11:00 mark.
Poole’s basket and improved defense helped spark a 7-0 rebuttal from Michigan, with Matthews knocking down a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to pull within 18-16 with 7:20 left in the half.
But the Wolverines’ shooting woes crept back up. They failed to make a single shot in the final nine minutes of the half and missed nine consecutive shot attempts down the stretch. Their lone points came on free throws from sophomore forward Isaiah Livers and Poole in a forgettable half that resulted in a 24-18 halftime deficit.
Here are some other observations from Saturday’s win:
►Michigan rolled out the same starting lineup it used in its exhibition against Northwood and season-opener against Norfolk State, with junior guard Zavier Simpson, Poole, Matthews, Brazdeikis and Teske.
►Despite Michigan’s first-half shooting woes, its defense kept Holy Cross from pulling away, particularly when the Wolverines went with a small lineup with Livers at the five. Holy Cross shot just 3-for-10 from the field and scored only six points the rest of the half after taking an 18-9 lead at the 11:24 mark.
►After Teske and Matthews went a combined 3-for-11 from the free-throw line in the regular-season opener against Norfolk State, the duo bounced back against Holy Cross by going 5-for-7.