Michigan basketball opens Wayne State’s new arena with dominating 87-54 exhibition win

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The grand unveiling of the Wayne State Fieldhouse, where Michigan basketball played its first and only exhibition game on Friday night, came with plenty of pomp and circumstance.

There was a pregame parade of notable figures in Warriors history, an appearance by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, an intro video featuring the sweet-sounding Sammy Davis Jr. and, as the main attraction, a Wolverines squad ranked No. 6 in the country.

When the basketball began, things went according to script for a game between a team with Final Four aspirations and a Division II squad. Guard Brailen Neely, a Detroit native, scored the first points in the building’s history when he splashed a 3-pointer from the left wing and held his follow through as the student section roared. The energy remained for the first 11 minutes until Juwan Howard’s club pulled away with a 28-5 run to close the half on a high.

It ended 87-54 in favor of the Wolverines as five players reached double-figures in scoring, headlined by Hunter Dickinson (14 points, nine rebounds), Moussa Diabate (14 points, five rebounds) and DeVante’ Jones (10 points, seven assists, four rebounds).

Dickinson fuels the run

Dickinson’s first shift came and went without a point Friday as the All-American big man missed his first three shots before a rest. Everything changed when he returned a few minutes later.

Dickinson scored on five consecutive possessions as the Wolverines blew the game open in the final seven minutes of the half. His 10 straight points in roughly three minutes invoked the breadth of an impressive skill set.

He scored on a hook shot with his right hand followed by a spin to his left. He beat the Warriors down the court and drew a foul while battling for position on the right block. He rolled to the rim for an easy bucket on a drop-off pass from Jones. He punctuated the sequence with a dunk on a feed from Brooks.

U-M pushing the pace

Fewer than three minutes had elapsed before Howard barked at his squad to push the pace. Behind a starting backcourt of Jones and Brooks, the Wolverines hunted fast-break opportunities that could become a staple of this team’s offensive approach. Jones, the transfer from Coastal Carolina, handled the point guard responsibilities and demanded the ball in the open court.

His primary running mates in transition were Dickinson and Diabate, who made a habit of running to the rim for easy buckets before the Wayne State defense could set, and freshman Caleb Houstan (10 points, five rebounds), who flashed the kind of open-floor athleticism and offense repertoire that has NBA scouts excited.

Houstan capped the first half with a two-handed slam in transition on a feed from Jones and opened the second half with another run out on a pass from his point guard, though he missed a contested layup.

Howard bellowed for his players to run the floor even when the Warriors exhibited adequate transition defense. He wanted his guards to initiate the offense quickly and encouraged his big men to fight for position early in the shot clock. His repeated cries of “Go, go, go!” in the second half produced a two-possession stretch in which Terrance Williams II nailed a fadeaway jumper and Brooks buried a 3 as the trailer on a fast break.

The Wolverines finished with an 19-8 edge in fast-break points.

Odds and ends

The Wolverines were without two guards: . freshman guard Frankie Collins (minor leg injury) and sophomore Zeb Jackson (illness unrelated to COVID-19) were in attendance but did not play.

U-M used a starting lineup of Jones, Brooks, Houstan, Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. to begin both halves. The substitutes who entered the game before the score got out of hand were Diabate, Nunez, Terrance Williams II and Kobe Bufkin in order of appearance.

The Wolverines begin their regular season Wednesday night when they host Buffalo at the Crisler Center.

Contact Michael Cohen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13. Send questions for his next U-M mailbag.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball opens Wayne State’s new home with exhibition win



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