ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan did everything they needed to do Tuesday night.
No one got hurt, the bench players all got to play and they played quickly enough that everyone could get home in time to study for finals.
Oh, and they beat Binghamtom 67-39 in a game that was probably less competitive than an intrasquad scrimmage.
“This is nice because we played good defense and got the win, and now our kids can go into a study day tomorrow, and exams starting on Thursday,” coach John Beilein said. “We can also take a lot of teaching moments from this game.
“There are things we ran just to get them on film, because our scout team knows too much about stopping our offense and this gave us a chance to see things against a different group.”
The Bearcats came into the game ranked 344th out of 347 teams in the country by one rating system, so a matchup with the #3 team was never going to be much of a contest. It was a rare chance at the big time for a program rebuilding from a 2009 academic scandal — it was the only game they are flying to all season.
“This was obviously taking a big bite of the apple for us,” said Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey. “It probably wasn’t realistic to think we could come in here and win in this building, but the fact that we held them under 70 points is a great achievement for our program.”
Dempsey didn’t try to outrun the Wolverines or beat them on the boards. He wanted his team to slow the game down and try to pull off a massive upset with a barrage of 3-pointers.
“When you are a small school playing at a top-5 program, the only way to win is to hit everything from the outside,” he said. “I thought we got some great looks in the first half, but we only hit two of them. That put us down 20 at the half, and there’s not much you can do at that point other than play hard.”
For the Wolverines, the job was just to play with some kind of intensity in such an easy win, especially as the margin climbed over 30 points in the second half.
“I thought we were a little stagnant at times, but that was part of the way they played,” said Trey Burke, who led Michigan with 19 points. “They were holding the ball for 30 seconds on every possession, and that makes it hard to get much energy going. Teams don’t normally do that against us, and it probably played into our hands, because we got some shot-clock violations, but they stayed very patient all night.”
Nik Stauskas agreed that it wasn’t an easy night to play hard-nosed basketball.
“You want to play the same way every night, but this wasn’t the same as playing at Madison Square Garden or against someone like North Carolina State,” he said. “We know that things are going to get a lot tougher once the Big Ten season starts. Right now, though, we’re getting ready for exams and there’s a lot going on, especially for us freshmen, and I think there were a few times where we got a little too relaxed tonight.”
Two players that did have the juices flowing were freshmen Caris Levert and Spike Albrecht, who got significant playing time in the lopsided affair. The two guards combined for six assists and five points in 24 minutes.
“Spike did some really nice things, especially in the second half,” Beilein said. “They had a zone going, and he established himself at the top of the key and knocked down a three. That’s not easy when you haven’t played much. We’re also getting to see Caris, and we don’t know what to expect from him. Two weeks ago, we thought he was going to be a redshirt, so we’re getting a new look at him.”
It was the perfect night to look at new players, run different plays and try unusual things. And at the end of the night, with Blake McLimans, Eso Akunne and Corey Person on the floor, the Wolverines had a 10-0 record and some extra time to study for their exams.
That’s just what a program wants from a game like this.