ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A flat first half was an immediate reminder of the challenge Michigan faces as it tries to replace some key players from last season’s Sweet 16 run.
“We expected to come out and run them over,” senior Duncan Robinson said. “You can’t do that. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. We have to be sharper and more mature.”
Robinson scored 21 points, and Michigan eventually turned back upset-minded North Florida 86-66 on Saturday night. Charles Matthews added 20 points for the Wolverines, who actually trailed 47-46 before pulling away in the latter part of the second half.
Moe Wagner had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan (1-0), which had to withstand some impressive 3-point shooting by the Ospreys. North Florida (0-2) was playing its second game in two nights after losing 98-66 at No. 2 Michigan State on Friday, but Ospreys coach Matthew Driscoll didn’t want to hear about any excuses.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” he said. “I’m not going to let them use the schedule, I’m not going to let them use their inexperience, I’m not going to let them use any of that.”
The Ospreys led 18-11 at the midway point of the first half, and although Michigan was up 32-30 at halftime, it was an uneven performance for the team that won last season’s Big Ten Tournament and then made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines had to replace Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and D.J. Wilson off that team.
“We have to understand, we’re a pretty young team,” Robinson said. “We’re not going to win games because we show up and we’re Michigan.”
Michigan led 52-51 before a 21-2 run highlighted by Robinson’s dunk in transition.
Garrett Sams led North Florida with 17 points. The Ospreys went 9 of 15 from beyond the arc.
The Wolverines are expected to lean on a pair of transfers — Matthews and Jaaron Simmons — but they had their ups and downs. Matthews scored the first two points of the game and kept right on shooting. By halftime, he was 5 of 13 from the field.
“Shots missed,” Matthews said. “It’s a game of imperfection, you’re not going to make every shot. I’m going to continue to shoot those shots and hopefully the ball drops.”
Matthews finished 9 of 19. Simmons scored only two points.
Michigan coach John Beilein said he’d like to pare his point guard rotation down to two players. Zavier Simpson started and had nine assists in 18 minutes. Simmons played 10 minutes and Eli Brooks played 14.
“We’ve got to get Jaaron more minutes than he did today, but Zavier’s such a great defender that we chose to go with that,” Beilein said.
North Florida: The Ospreys made a game of it until the last 10 minutes, but North Florida had 24 turnovers, which was a real problem against a Michigan team that committed only 10.
“We shot 60 percent from 3, we’re a 3-point shooting team, and we’re trying to force the ball. It makes no sense,” Driscoll said.
Michigan: The final score was a bit deceiving on a night Michigan didn’t look that dominant, but the Wolverines were impressive in breaking the game open late. Matthews settled down and took better shots in the second half, but it will probably take some time before Michigan’s offense flows the way it usually does.
North Florida: No rest for the weary. The Ospreys have one day off before playing again Monday night at Virginia Commonwealth.
Michigan: The Wolverines host Central Michigan on Monday night.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister