DETROIT — For the second game of the season, and a nonconference one against a Power Five team at that, there was drama for Michigan basketball.
Yes, Eastern Michigan is in the Mid-American Conference, and the Wolverines were expected to be big winners, but the Eagles had a force to be reckoned with, former five-star Emoni Bates, who scored 30 against the maize and blue. However, Hunter Dickinson came alive for Michigan in the second half, while Terrance Williams II had his first career double-double, to help lift the maize and blue, 88-83, at Little Caesar’s Arena.
After the game, head coach Juwan Howard spoke about the team’s adjustments, Bates, and what he liked about the win to elevate the Wolverines to 2-0. Here is everything he had to say.
What did he say to Emoni Bates after the game?
You guys wanna know everything, huh? I wished him well, told him to stay healthy. But other than that, I can’t tell you the rest. Great kid. Special player.
What did he learn about his team?
Yeah, I learned a lot. As far as — the guys touched on it earlier. You can learn a lot just from a win, instead of just a loss. And so we knew coming in with atmosphere like that, that it was gonna be a game of runs, and with a special talent that they have — not just one player, but two players. I mean, Noah Farrakhan, he’s another special guy who can make tough shots. He, he lives for the big moments. And so you have two guys that are gifted offensively, but also two competitors, you’re gonna get a very competitive game, which was expected.
So our guys did an amazing job of just having a mental stability when the runs were in Eastern Michigan favor. We could have easily just folded to them. We didn’t.
Eastern Michigan's feistiness, did it take the team aback?
No, no, not at all. As a competitor, we expected that competitive game. And our guys are extremely competitive as well. But we have a school that is like, what, 10 to 15 minutes down the road, some of the guys that are from Detroit, they have family that’s in the building. They also have some of their coaches and front and relatives and as well as student body. You know, when you get the crowd into it, it just breeds confidence. It breeds toughness. And that’s a tough team. So let’s give a lot of credit to coach Stan and his staff for preparing his team to come out and compete.
Thoughts on the defense guarding Emoni Bates?
I knew going in after watching film, and then also, I’ve seen this young man grow since the time when he was put up there in the public news as one of the — what I recall, the best fourth grader in the country? And with that, I was OK, well, who’s rating the best fourth grader in the coutry. And then, you know, you just see his growth each year, and it’s like, oh, OK.
Then he started getting compared to Kevin Durant. And, that’s hard for any young person, but give him credit as far as how he has worked on his game, and his skill set. And so with that, some of the shots that he made, I wasn’t surprised, because I’ve seen him make a lot of tough shots, watching him in high school, watching them in the AAU level. And now, he has a group that breeds confidence in him, that trusts him. And, it’s nothing like that. I know it from my own experience. When you have a coaching staff and teammates that believe in you and trust you, your confidence level goes up even higher.
He’s going to touch the ball every time down the floor, let’s not forget that. He deserves to.
Defensive communication in the game
Well, first half, I felt like we didn’t do a good job of that. Second half, we talked about at halftime. So when someone asks some of the adjustments that we’ve made, some adjustments where let’s make sure that we’re not up on the ball screen, let’s pick them up at the 3-point line. When we were picking them up sort of high above the 3-point, that was giving like Noah and some of their guards the opportunity to get downhill, to get into the paint. And that was too many paint touches in the first half. So you look at how they shot the ball in the first half, they were 53% from the field. So then, in the second half, they shot 38% from the field. So that’s the credit to the adjustments and credit in our defense, our defensive disposition and also out mindset.
Hunter Dickinson in the second half
I mean, I think I might be the toughest and hardest person on Hunter because I just expect more. But, yeah, give the young man credit, he knows that, he doesn’t mind that I challenged him. He doesn’t mind being coached. He enjoys going out there and competing and it’s tough sometimes when you have smaller guys that’s walking underneath you, beating on your arm.
You know, sometimes your whistles — and I’m not saying the referees didn’t do a good job there, because they did — but sometimes you have that Shaq whistle. I remember times in the NBA when Shaq was — he had a different whistle than everyone else. He was so big and stronger than all the other guys that I think the times people expect for him to dominate and expect him to take a lot of abuse. But Hunter is — he’s just is working and he’s done an amazing job of leading as well.
So Terrance talked about it in the atmosphere of those two guys being veterans and being a part of big games and being in tournaments where they’ve seen in crowds like that in the NBA-style arena. And our freshmen, this is their first time. And I think it’s Joey’s first time — not Joey, I’m sorry. Jaelin. And so when you have an atmosphere like that, it can be different. It can sometimes get you more caught into playing for the crowd, or you can not trust yourself and play a little timid. But I think it’s great for us to have an opportunity to play in a crowd like this in a big NBA atmosphere because it’s preparing you for, not only just the Big Ten, but hopefully, if you get an opportunity to play in a tournament, you want to have an environment like that. And that’s why to have one play a game like this here, in Little Caesar’s Arena now and just so we can get a lot of our Michigan fans around the Detroit area to come out and support. But it also inspires young guys, for those who are dreaming, working hard, and playing at the NBA level. This can be very inspiring to get a chance and opportunity to play in an arena like this. So with that, we’d love to do cool things and more importantly, give our guys the experience of an atmosphere like that.
How NBA-ready is Emoni Bates?
Well, I do think in NBA games today you see a lot of that. You see some guys that get paid a lot of money that make shots like Emoni, that can score similar to Emoni and have that size to have ball skills like a big guard. I feel if he has good health throughout the season, and keeps working, which I know he will, he has a chance. And I don’t know what year it’s going to be because I’m not going to speak for him or I’ll get his coaches upset. But, you know, I think there’s a chance for this young man to really do some special things within the game of basketball.