By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR (AP) – Before Michigan tipped off the 2013-14 season, players, coaches and fans enjoyed one more chance to look back on one of the most memorable teams in school history.
The Wolverines raised their Final Four banner from last season to the rafters Friday night, then dispatched Division I newcomer UMass-Lowell 69-42 behind 15 points from Glenn Robinson III. No. 7 Michigan didn’t look all that sharp early on – but perhaps the nostalgia was still wearing off from the long-awaited pregame ceremony.
“Special moment,” guard Spike Albrecht said. “It was a reminder of all the hard work and all the stuff we put in last year. I’m just looking forward to this year – new faces, new team.”
UMass-Lowell actually led by two early in the second half, but the Wolverines took control by scoring the next 21 points, and that was the end of the upset bid. Michigan was without star big man Mitch McGary, who missed the game because of a lingering back problem.
The Wolverines looked out of sorts for a while in their first game after the departures of national player of the year Trey Burke and fellow guard Tim Hardaway Jr. Both left for the NBA after last season.
“Great learning time for us, and glad to get a win,” coach John Beilein said. “The offense had to make a couple shots. The guys that are out there on that floor right now … they never had to make those big plays in games that Trey and Tim used to always make.”
Akeem Williams scored 16 points for UMass-Lowell, which was making its Division I debut. The River Hawks aren’t eligible for the America East or NCAA tournaments until 2017-18.
“Obviously, we were really pleased at halftime,” said Pat Duquette, who was coaching his first game for UMass-Lowell. “That’s about as good a job as we can expect.”
Caris LeVert led the Wolverines with 17 points and freshman Zak Irvin added 10.
The game was tied 23-all at halftime, and Williams made a layup off a steal for UMass-Lowell for the first basket of the second half.
The River Hawks went more than 10 minutes before scoring again.
Jon Horford put Michigan ahead 27-25 with a dunk, and last season’s NCAA tournament runner-up eventually put the game out of reach. Freshman Derrick Walton was fouled while shooting from beyond the arc and made all three free throws. That made it 32-25, and Irvin added a 3-pointer and two free throws to push the lead to 17.
It was 44-25 when DJ Mlachnik made two free throws for the River Hawks to end the scoreless drought.
The Wolverines raised their 2013 Final Four banner in a ceremony about 20 minutes before the game.
“We needed closure, that’s for sure,” Beilein said. “It was a great experience, and I really sat there and just looked at it.”
It was a particularly meaningful moment for this program because the Fab Five-era banners from the school’s previous two trips to the Final Four – in 1992 and 1993 – were taken down because of NCAA violations.
Walton, Burke’s replacement at point guard, started in his first college game and made a nice pass to Nik Stauskas for an early 3-pointer that put Michigan ahead 8-0. Williams finally scored the first basket for the River Hawks with 14:27 to go in the half, and UMass-Lowell was able to keep it close for a while.
In the first half, the Wolverines looked nothing like the smooth, efficient team that came within a few points of a national title last season. Michigan shot 6 of 23 from the field in the half and 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Wolverines were 4 of 9 from long distance in the second half. Walton finished with six points, four rebounds and four assists, and Horford had five points and 12 rebounds.
“We talked about some things at halftime. We were really stagnant offensively,” LeVert said. “We played really good defense in the first half. In the second half they had like two points for about 10 minutes and we really turned up our pressure and it really helped our offense.”
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