CLOSING

Michigan coach Juan Howard discusses his team's 79-71 victory in the season opener against Appalachian State, November 5, 2019.
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press

Basketball in Michigan is underway, as expected with a new coach on its debut.

The second half of the season opener 79-71 on Tuesday's victory over Appalachian Doubt has a long way to go.

With 12:59 left, the Wolverines hold a 30-point lead at the Crisler Center in An Arbor. So far, they have dominated the game on both ends, attacking low and outside offensively and limiting quality shots in defense.

Michigan was about to embark on the Juvan Howard era with a blow to its overworked foe.

Until everything changes.

John Teske defends the Appalachian hunter hunter in the second half of Tuesday in Ann Arber. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

The Appalachian State used a 32-6 run to reduce the deficit to four with 20 seconds remaining, looking like a far superior team during this period. The werewolves couldn't stop the ball, finishing with 17 turnovers – more than in any game last season. In the meantime, the defense struggled to stop the transition or the half court.

This was a recipe for disaster. If more time was left on the clock or the original lead was not so distorted, Howard's debut could have ended with an unthinkable defeat.

And though the Wolverines emerged victorious, it became even clearer in the face of the team's steep learning curve as it adjusts to life under a new coach.

"We just got out of the little things," said center John Teske. "We really shared the ball in the first half, knocked down a lot of open shots, shared the ball great, made that extra pass. The second half, I think we strained a little. We need to relax. We were up by 30 points.

" let's learn to grow from that. We just have to keep the lead of 30 points and 20 points. And just keep holding that foot on the pedal. "

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What is the prognosis of the NCAA Tournament in Michigan? Scenario

Going into the season, there is no indication that this team will be able to overcome all these factors and play its best basketball from the beginning, and there will always be a correction period.

And the players aren't the only ones who learn with every game. Their coach is, too.

"In general, I think there are some areas that not only our players need to improve, but me as a coach," he said Howard. "It's part of the process. I cannot separate from the group. May I sleep tonight. I hope I won't play every game, every possession in my head as I try to fall asleep, but I know I will.

"I'm going to have some sleep disturbance because it shows that … they care. You care about this game, you care about what's going on. You care about how you can improve and have that mindset for growth. I'm always critical. I'm always firm with myself. "

Contact Orion Sang at osang @ freepress .com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang . Read more about Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines Newsletter.