San Juan, PR (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off a shocking loss on the road, the now 14th-ranked Michigan Wolverines take part in the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, starting with Thursday's opening round matchup with the Long Beach State 49ers.
John Beilein's Wolverines were the seventh-ranked team in the country last week and certainly looked the part of a top 10 squad with two easy wins at home over UMass-Lowell (69-42) and South Carolina State (93-59). However, the team's first game outside of Ann Arbor resulted in a 77-70 setback at Iowa State on Sunday. The Wolverines are trying to make it back to their second straight Final Four, after winning 31 games and playing Louisville for the national championship last season.
Don Monson's 49ers are making quite the trek to Puerto Rico, and drag a three- game losing streak with them. LBSU opened the season with a 71-59 victory over Hawaii Pacific, but followed with setbacks to Arizona (91-57), Loyola Marymount (74-73) and most recently, Kansas State (71-58).
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs. The winner of this game will take on either Florida State or VCU in second-round action on Friday.
Trailing by 17 points at the break, Long Beach State played much better in the second half, but the deficit was too much to overcome in Manhattan, as the 49ers dropped their third straight game. LBSU held a 40-28 edge in rebounding, but committed 20 turnovers and shot just 40 percent from the floor for the game. Forward Dan Jennings was once again a force in the paint, finishing with double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. A.J. Spencer added 13 points, while guard Mike Caffey chipped in with nine.
Caffey is shooting a modest .434 from the floor this season, but leads the team in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg). Unfortunately, his unselfish distributing has come at a price, as he is also tops on the team in turnovers (17). The 6-9 Jennings has recorded a double-double in all four games this season and is averaging 14.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, while shooting an impressive .632 from the field. The scoring pool dries up fast after that for Long Beach State, as the team is netting just 64.8 ppg and doing so on a mere .377 shooting percentage. The problem gets worse the further from the basket, with an ugly .230 shooting percentage from behind the arc.
Nik Stauskas led the team with 20 points and six assists, but it wasn't enough to push the Wolverines to a victory over the Cyclones in Ames this past weekend. Derrick Walton Jr. added 13 points and Glenn Robinson III finished with 12 for Michigan, but the Wolverines were outscored at the free-throw line 13-4 and shot a modest .420 from the field overall.
Beilein's team won't have many protracted losing streaks this season, as they are a balanced squad that thrives at both ends of the court. Despite the loss to Iowa State, Michigan still enjoys a hefty +18.0 scoring margin, averaging 77.3 ppg, while limiting foes to a mere 59.3 ppg, on just .379 shooting. Four of the five starters for Michigan are currently averaging double figures, led by Stauskas' 17.3 ppg. Caris LeVert is next in line at 15.3 ppg, followed by Robinson and Walton with 13.3 and 10.3 ppg, respectively.