NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The highlight of Michigan’s season opener may have come before the opening tip.
The 24th-ranked Wolverines raised their 2014 Big Ten championship banner before the game, celebrating another season of accomplishment before beating Division II Hillsdale 92-68 on Saturday. Michigan’s new banner joins several others in the rafters — including one commemorating a 2013 Final Four appearance and another for a conference title in 2012.
“It was nice to see all the hard work that we put in last year, to see that banner being raised,” sophomore Zak Irvin said. “But we know that was last year’s team, and we’ve got a whole new team this year, and we’ve got to be able to work hard and just get better each day.”
The Wolverines have to replace Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, all of whom left early for the NBA. Freshmen Mark Donnal and Kameron Chatman were in the starting lineup Saturday.
Caris LeVert had 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Michigan. The Wolverines (1-0) fell behind 15-6, but the Chargers (0-1) couldn’t hold them off for long. Michigan scored 11 straight points to take its first lead and led 50-33 at halftime.
The Wolverines shot 11 of 19 from 3-point range, and the perimeter figures to be a strength again for Michigan. Kyle Cooper scored 28 points for Hillsdale, which kept the score respectable thanks to its own impressive outside shooting.
Michigan led 26-24 before breaking the game open with a 22-4 run. Spike Albrecht intercepted a pass near midcourt and breezed in for a breakaway layup, and Irvin followed that with a steal and a one-handed dunk that made it 32-24.
Irvin finished with 21 points and Derrick Walton had 22.
Although Hillsdale was overmatched for the most part, Michigan begins the season with three games in six days, so its depth might be tested immediately. Walton played 34 minutes Saturday, while LeVert (33), Chatman (30), Irvin (29) and Donnal (26) also played normal starter’s minutes.
“I think with the TV timeouts and the type of condition we’re in, we could do 30 minutes,” Beilein said. “When we practice for two or three days in a row, we practice really hard, so hopefully they’re in game shape from all the practices they see.”
The Chargers certainly looked loose at the start of the game.
“We obviously knew who we were playing, but I told our kids to take it in during warmups, enjoy the moment and then when the game started, play against a nameless, faceless opponent,” Hillsdale coach John Tharp said. “That worked for a few minutes, but that’s just a great basketball team.”
Hillsdale: The Chargers went 10 of 23 from 3-point range. Stedman Lowry connected three times from long distance and scored 11 of Hillsdale’s first 15 points. He finished with 15.
Michigan: With 1:12 remaining and the score 92-64, freshman Austin Hatch checked into the game to a nice ovation from the crowd. Hatch was in a plane crash in 2011 that killed his father and stepmother and left him in a coma for about eight weeks. It was the second plane crash Hatch has survived.
Hatch got the ball in the corner during the final minute and squared to shoot, but he was well guarded and had to pass to a teammate.
Hillsdale has a lengthy break before its next game, at Cedarville on Nov. 25.
Michigan hosts Bucknell on Monday night as part of the Progressive Legends Classic.
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