Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - With the sting of their first loss of the season still lingering, the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines play host to the Colonels of Nicholls State on Saturday afternoon.
Nicholls has yet to taste victory this season, losing each of its first three games by double digits. The Colonels tipped off the campaign with a 71-57 loss at North Texas, and that was followed by 107-74 setback at UCLA and a 75-48 defeat at Wake Forest. This games wraps up the team's season-opening, four- game road trip, as it will host Loyola (New Orleans) on Dec. 6.
Michigan began the season with four straight wins, topping the likes of Hillsdale (92-68), Bucknell (77-53), Detroit (71-62) and Oregon (70-63), but then it ran into another nationally-ranked team in No. 12 Villanova on Tuesday night in the final of the Legends Classic played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Wildcats prevailed in that clash, 60-55, and the Maize and Blue will not try to start a new winning streak as it embarks on a four- game homestand starting with today's contest.
This bout marks the first meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
Liam Thomas scored 13 points as the only Nicholls player to reach double figures in the recent loss to Wake Forest. The team shot just 40 percent from the floor, which included a dismal 2-of-12 showing from 3-point range. The Colonels also struggled at the free-throw line (10-of-19), while committing 18 turnovers and being doubled up in the rebounding battle, 42-21. The Demon Deacons didn't shoot the ball all that much better (.429 overall, .294 3- point), but they converted 28-of-36 foul shots.
Amin Torres leads Nicholls in scoring with 11 ppg, shooting a stellar 46.7 percent from three-point land, and he is only player averaging double figures for a team that is putting up only 59.7 ppg while allowing 84.3 ppg. The Colonels are shooting just 38.8 percent from the field and 25.4 percent from beyond the arc. Slow starts have plagued the team in the early going, as it is being outscored in the first half by an average of 22.7 points, but it has performed much better after the break, with foes averaging only two points more than the Colonels in the second half. Adding insult to injury, Nicholls has been outscored at the charity stripe, 82-25, while being outworked on the glass, 147-88.
In the recent loss to Villanova, Caris LeVert scored 16 points and was joined in double figures by Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, Jr. with 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Wolverines shot just 41.1 percent from the floor, missing the mark on 15 of their 21 3-point tries along the way. They also went only 3- of-5 at the free-throw line, while the Wildcats went 8-of-13. Villanova won the rebounding battle, 35-31, and scored 30 points in the paint compared to 18 for Michigan. Tempo was the key as the 'Cats outscored the Wolverines on the break, 13-0.
Irvin leads the Wolverines in scoring at 18.4 ppg, while LeVert is hot on his heels with 16.2 ppg, while also stuffing the stat sheet with 6.8 rpg, 4.4 apg and 1.8 spg, all of which paces the team. He is also first in free throw percentage (.840) and minutes played (35.8 per game). Walton contributes 13.8 and 5.4 caroms per contest for a team that is netting 73 ppg while permitting 61.2 ppg. The Wolverines are knocking down 41.1 percent of their 3-point tries, converting 76.3 percent of their foul shots, and they are guilty of only 8.4 turnovers per game.