ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — There would be no easing into the season opener for Michigan. The Wolverines were held scoreless for over five minutes at the beginning of their game against Howard.
"I’ve been coaching a long time, and what Howard did defensively, was something, I don’t recall seeing it, actually," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It’s an aggressive matchup zone, and they’re taking things away, and they’re really flying around with great quickness."
The Wolverines eventually overcame that tough defense. Derrick Walton scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half, and Michigan fought through a poor shooting night to beat Howard 76-58 on Friday.
The Wolverines ended up shooting just 42 percent from the field. The Bison trailed 41-36 with under 12 minutes remaining in the game before Michigan asserted itself.
Mark Donnal scored 12 points for Michigan, and Zak Irvin added 11.
Damon Collins scored 12 points for Howard, which was without guard James Daniel, the nation’s leading scorer last season. He is expected to miss about another month with a high ankle sprain.
Free throws helped boost Michigan’s margin in a foul-filled game. The Wolverines went 23 of 26 from the line, while Howard was just 14 of 29.
"We’re so used to Daniel making that play for us," Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. "He’s an 80 percent free-throw shooter. He makes big 3s. … We’ve got to get used to, those moments are not just his moments anymore. For six or seven games, it’s their moments."
Michigan’s scoreless stretch to open the game was finally broken when Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman made a couple 3-pointers. The Wolverines led 34-25 at halftime.
It was 41-36 when Howard’s Solomon Mangham missed two free throws. Irvin made a jumper at the other end, and Michigan slowly began extending the lead. It was 49-38 after a 3-pointer by Irvin.
Howard: The Bison were picked to win the MEAC in a preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors, and they did a good job staying in the game against Michigan despite Daniel’s absence.
Michigan: It wasn’t the prettiest game, but perhaps that’s not the worst thing for the Wolverines, who are trying to improve their defense this season and show they can grind out wins even when their offense isn’t clicking.
Donnal had six rebounds to go along with his dozen points, and fellow backup D.J. Wilson had nine points and eight rebounds.
"That’s our job, is be energy guys off the bench," Donnal said. "D.J. did a good job of getting a few offensive rebounds and keeping a lot of plays alive."
Michigan announced the signing of guard Eli Brooks (Spring Grove, Pennsylvania), forward Isaiah Livers (Kalamazoo, Michigan) and guard Jordan Poole (Milwaukee) to letters of intent for 2017-18.
Howard: The Bison take on Marquette on Monday night in Milwaukee. That game — along with the Howard-Michigan game — is part of the 2K Classic, which benefits Wounded Warrior Project.
Michigan: The Wolverines host IUPUI on Sunday in another 2K Classic game.