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November 4, 2013

U-M gets off to a hot shooting start

After Michigan's 117-44 evisceration of Concordia in the team's first exhibition game of the year, a game in which the Wolverines hit an impressive 11-of-22 three-point shots, coach John Beilein seemed encouraged but not convinced in the team's shooting ability.

"We've shot okay," Beilein said after that performance. "We're still missing some of those things from Tim [Hardaway, Jr.] and Trey [Burke], for sure. That's the process of getting them to make them out there."

The Wolverines helped put Beilein's mind at ease - at least a little - Monday night in a 79-60 win over Wayne State in the final exhibition matchup before the regular season kicks off Friday night vs. UMass-Lowell.

With the Warriors crashing hard on any player driving into the lane, Michigan came out firing from downtown.

The Wolverines hit 7-of-11 three-point attempts (63.6 percent) in the first half, mostly on open looks off a kick-out pass from a driving guard.

"When we only go with one big, we're going to have four shooters out there," Beilein said. "That was good, to be able to spread the court ourselves. And to see Zak come out and do what he did, it was really good for us, and good for him, as well. We're still learning, but we have always liked to have teams with four or five shooters on the floor."

Freshman shooting guard Zak Irvin led the way, draining all three of his attempts in the opening 20 minutes.

"I am out there, trying to be a team player," Irvin said. "Whenever I find an open shot, I'm going to take it. We have a very balanced team. Great point guards, great wings and great big guys. We can play a very balanced game, and we just play team basketball."

For the second straight game, a whopping six Wolverines hit from outside. Irvin finished with three, sophomore guard Nik Stauskas added two and sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III, freshman point guard Derrick Walton, sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht and sophomore guard Caris LeVert each chipped in one.

"It has to be a big thing for defenses to adjust to us, because we have a lot of people who can drive, a lot of people who can pass and a lot of people who can shoot," LeVert said.

At one point early in the second half, the team was 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. Though the Wolverines cooled off (hitting 1-of-9 attempts down the stretch), the damage was already done.

Michigan hit 20-of-43 three-point shots (46.5 percent) through the two exhibition games. Last year, the team hit 296-of-769 (38.5 percent) for the year.

"We're hitting shots," Robinson said. "It's dangerous. If people try to collapse in a lane - a little bit like they did today - we have shooters who can knock that down. It's about confidence, getting all those reps in practice.

"That makes it tough, when there are so many shooters. When we have driving opportunities, if they're not going to help, we're going to finish. If they help, you kick it out, and we have great shooters."

Though Beilein is gaining more confidence in his shooters' abilities, he is even more encouraged about how those shots are materializing.

Of the Wolverines' 24 field goals against Wayne State, 16 of them were tagged with an assist.

"Here's the big thing; we have a really good passing team," Beilein said. "We had some really good looks to each other today. And the shooters, Glenn and Nik, are two of our better passers. They're finding people. With Zak, whether he's spotting up in the corner or on the wing, people will find him. Having that extra shooter - like when we played small when Novak was out there - it was that fourth dynamite shooter out there that could really impact an offense."

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