Published November 20, 2014
The 20th-ranked Michigan Wolverines continue to iron out the wrinkles as they get set for the start of Big Ten Conference play, and they take aim at their fifth straight win when they entertain the Bradley Braves tonight at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Since opening the season at 3-0, Bradley has lost six of its last eight games, including two-in-row against Drexel (73-68) and Western Carolina (68-67). The Braves are 1-4 away from home this year, with two of the losses coming in neutral-site affairs. This game marks Bradley's final non-league test, as it is set to kick off Missouri Valley Conference play at home versus Wichita State next Wednesday.
Michigan is a solid 9-2 to this point in the season, with its two losses coming to ACC foes in Duke and Virginia, and its signature wins coming against Memphis and UCLA in Hawaii just prior to Thanksgiving. The Wolverines have topped Iowa State, Oakland, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama A&M during their current win streak -- not exactly what anyone would consider top-notch competition. UM, which is 6-0 in Ann Arbor this season, begins its Big Ten slate at home against Penn State next Thursday.
Michigan owns a 5-1 series advantage over Bradley, and all four matchups that have taken place in Ann Arbor went in favor of the Wolverines. The last encounter occurred in 1998, with UM prevailing at home in a 74-44 final.
With a record that sits a game under .500 at the moment, it's not surprising that the Braves are just about dead even in terms of scoring margin (-2.1) and rebounding margin (+0.2). The team features three double-digit scorers in Taylor Brown (14.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Walt Lemon, Jr. (12.4 ppg, 19 steals) and Dyricus Simms-Edwards (12.2 ppg, 3.5 apg), while fellow starter Jordan Prosser (9.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg) inches toward averaging a double-double. Simms-Edwards scored a game-high 17 points to lead four Braves in double figures in their most recent outing against Western Carolina, but the Catamounts nailed seven three-pointers compared to just two for Bradley as they slipped by in a 68-67 decision. Prosser finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists in what was another solid all-around effort for the Braves, who wound up shooting 51 percent from the field, but just 56.5 percent from the foul line.
Through 11 games, Michigan is outscoring the opposition by an average of 10.8 ppg, while also laying claim to favorable margins in rebounding (+3.1) and turnovers (+0.5). Tim Hardaway, Jr. (15.4 ppg) is one of three Wolverines netting double digits on a consistent basis, and he is joined by backcourt mate Trey Burke (13.1 ppg, 4.7 apg) and forward Evan Smotrycz (10.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg). As a team, the Maize and Blue are shooting 49.4 percent from the field, which includes a 38 percent showing from three-point range, while defensively allowing just a 39.5 success rate on the opposition's total field goal attempts. Burke was the high man for UM in the 87-57 win over Alabama A&M, netting 19 points and handing out four assists. Smotrycz logged a double- double consisting of 17 points and 11 boards, while Hardaway, Jr. and Zack Novak chipped in 13 points apiece. Michigan shot 54.5 percent from the floor, while limiting its overmatched foe to 32.3 percent. A 17-8 edge in points from the foul line, and a 41-30 rebounding advantage also played a significant role in the outcome.