Less than four minutes in, Michigan coach John Beilein felt nervous as he subbed out leading scorer Derrick Walton Jr. for getting his second foul. By halftime the scoreboard showed a 24-point lead, but he was still not at ease.
It turned out Beilein had little to be concerned about and could enjoy what was supposed to be his team's first test.
Zak Irvin led five players in double figures with 16 points and Michigan pulled away late in the first half for a 79-61 victory over Marquette in the second semifinal of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
The Wolverines won despite Walton going scoreless and missing all four of his shots in 22 minutes.
"You lose a senior point guard and put a freshman in, every coach in the country is concerned," Beilein said.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and reserve Mark Donnal added 15 points apiece for Michigan (3-0), which led for the final 33-plus minutes and beat Marquette for the 14th time in 20 meetings. D.J. Wilson added 10 points and 12 rebounds as Michigan shot 59 percent in the first half and 51 percent overall.
"We have a next-man-up mentality and I think that showed," Wilson said. "We knew it was going to be tough once Walton went out with two fouls."
Walton was replaced by freshman point guard Xavier Simpson and spent a little over five minutes on the bench. When he returned Michigan was in beginning stages of a decisive 26-9 run that gave the Wolverines a 50-26 lead at the intermission.
"I hate leads like that at halftime," Beilein said. "You all were saying this one's over, I'm saying it ain't over until it's over."
Beilein was partially correct.
The Wolverines built the lead to 29 early in the second half and Marquette inched closer, getting within 12 with 5 ½ minutes remaining. Michigan then finished it off by getting a 3-pointer from Irvin and an alley-oop dunk from Wilson on consecutive possessions.
Luke Fischer led Marquette with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The rest of the team shot 34 percent.
"We've got to become tougher and when shots aren't falling, offense isn't coming as easily, it can impact your defense," Marquette coach Steve Wojciehowski said.
Marquette won its first two games by double digits over Vanderbilt and Howard, getting away with shaky first halves. The Golden Eagles averaged 36.5 points in the first halves of those games but against a higher level of competition, Marquette was held to 26. The first four possessions of the second half did not go well either as the Golden Eagles were called for traveling twice and were not close on two 3-point attempts.
Michigan made 342 3-pointers last season, the most in school history, and the third time under coach John Beilein's spread offense the Wolverines made at least 300. Michigan is off to a good start again from long range. After going 16 of 45 in its first two wins, the Wolverines were slightly better Thursday with a 9-of-23 showing and five players made at least one long range shot.
WILSON THE REBOUNDER
Last year, Michigan forward D.J. Wilson saw limited minutes in 26 games. The 6-foot-10 junior has already surpassed his rebound total from last season by getting 22 in Michigan's first two victories and added 12 more against Marquette.
Marquette will face former Big East foe Pittsburgh in the 2K Classic championship game Friday.
Michigan will face SMU in the 2K Classic championship game Friday. Last year SMU handed the Wolverines an 82-58 loss in Dallas.