Long Beach St.-Michigan Preview
After having its inexperience exposed in its first true test of the season, Michigan is hoping a trip to the Caribbean proves to be much more successful.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines will meet Long Beach State on Thursday night in San Juan in a Puerto Rico Tip-Off quarterfinal. The winner of the schools' first-ever meeting will play either No. 10 VCU or Florida State in Friday night's semifinals.
Michigan (2-1) comes off a 77-70 road loss to now-No. 21 Iowa State on Sunday. The Wolverines, whose starters included three sophomores and a freshman, had breezed by Massachusetts-Lowell and South Carolina State by a combined 161-101 margin.
With preseason All-American Mitch McGary limited in his season debut and Glenn Robinson III struggling from the field, the team leaned heavily on Nik Stauskas, who scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half and took a career-high 18 shots.
Stauskas was 4 of 10 from 3-point range as Michigan finished 8 of 29, including six misses in the final five minutes. Robinson and starting guards Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. were each 1 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Stauskas was 6 of 10 from the floor in the second half while his teammates went 8 for 24.
"Obviously I think we're a better team when we're making 3s," Stauskas said. "But we were getting really good shots today and those were shots that guys normally make. So we're not going to be too worried about that. We're just going to get back in the gym, get some more shots up and hopefully the next game those shots will go down for us."
McGary recorded nine points, six rebounds and four steals in 22 minutes after being sidelined by a lower back injury, but his playing time should gradually increase as his conditioning improves.
Coach John Beilein would like to see his team attack the basket more after shooting just nine free throws and making four. Michigan averaged 25.5 free-throw attempts in its first two games.
After winning the last three Big West regular-season championships, Long Beach State (1-3) is off to a rough start with its lone victory coming over Hawaii-Pacific.
The 49ers committed 20 turnovers in a 71-58 loss at Kansas State on Sunday. They fell behind 26-9 with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half and never trailed by fewer than 13 after that.
"We couldn't get in any offensive rhythm and it started putting so much pressure on our defense and our rebounding to get stops," coach Dan Monson said. "We weren't able to do that and they just took control."
Senior Dan Jennings logged his third double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while leading scorer Mike Caffey was held to nine points after averaging 18.7 through his first three contests.
Long Beach State's starters were 1 for 11 from 3-point range. The team has been one of the country's worst in that department, knocking down 23.0 percent.
The 49ers fell 97-51 at then-No. 6 Arizona on Nov. 11 for their sixth straight loss to a Top 25 foe, but their last regular-season game against a ranked team at a neutral site was a 68-58 upset of then-No. 14 Xavier on Dec. 22, 2011.
Michigan is seeking its fifth straight regular-season neutral-court victory over an unranked team.