Michigan Men’s Basketball Opens Season with 99-74 Win Over UNC-Asheville

Photos by Aaron J. Thornton

The new-look Michigan Wolverines Men’s Basketball team hosted the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs for their season and home opener last night. After an off-season full of change and some uncertainty, Michigan came out looking like a team that had been playing together for years. In front of a half-full Crisler Center, the Wolverines jumped out to an early 5-2 lead and never looked back, easily defeating the Bulldogs 99-74.

This season’s team in Maize and Blue features a number of new faces. With last year’s All-Big Ten 2nd-Team honoree Hunter Dickinson transferring to Kansas, and All-Big Ten 3rd-Team honorees Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin taking their talent to the NBA, there was a lot of uncertainty in just how good this year’s team would be. Michigan added, via the transfer portal, Olivier Nkamhoua from Tennessee, Nimari Burnett from Texas Tech (and previously Alabama), as well as Tray Jackson from Seton Hall. These new additions, along with returning Senior Forward Terrance Williams II, second year players Dug McDaniel (Guard) and Tarris Reed (Center), and key reserve Will Tschetter (Forward) played extremely well together and will look to surprise many who might have pinned the Wolverines to finish in the bottom of the Big Ten conference.

For Tuesday night’s win, it came without Head Coach Juwan Howard, who was not on the sideline after having heart surgery back in September. Howard, who was expected to be out for 6-12 weeks total, was said to be in the building watching his team. Michigan was also missing Howard’s son, Jace, as he was seen on the bench recovering from a stress fracture. The younger Howard is likely to miss 4-6 weeks due to the injury.

Despite the score, UNC-Asheville was not a team for Michigan to overlook and take lightly.  The Bulldogs, who returned eight of their top 10 players from last year, are the reigning Big South Conference Champions. They are also favored to win their conference again this season. However, the Wolverines were impressive, outperforming the Bulldogs in just about all stat categories. Shooting a remarkable 46% from three point range (57% overall), Michigan out rebounded UNC Asheville 37-29 and took great care of the ball only committing eight turnovers. That is a spectacular stat for a team with so many new members. The one stat field that was not in favor of the Wolverines was the number of fouls committed. Michigan had 23 total fouls compared to 18 of UNC-Asheville.

Four players for Michigan scored in double digits for the game. Nkamoua led all scorers with 25 points with McDaniel adding 22 points and eight assists. Nkamoua also pulled down seven rebounds, tying Reed for the game high in that category.  UNC-Asheville was led by Josh Banks who scored 18 points.

Next up for Michigan (1-0) is a contest at home against Youngstown State University (0-1) on Friday.  UNC-Asheville will return home to host UNC-Wilmington on Saturday.

Final Score: 99 – 74

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