No. 14 Michigan looks to get back on track vs. Presbyterian

NCAA Basketball

Franz Wagner’s point total in No. 14 Michigan’s last game matched his uniform number.

The Wolverines are looking for many more outings like that from the talented freshman forward.

Wagner scored 21 points against No. 10 Oregon last Saturday, but the Wolverines missed two shot attempts in the closing seconds and fell 71-70.

Following a week-long break, Michigan and Wagner will be back in action on Saturday afternoon against Presbyterian at Ann Arbor’s Crisler Center.

Wagner’s Michigan debut was delayed by a wrist injury. The younger brother of former Wolverine and current Washington Wizards forward Moritz Wagner has averaged 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in his first seven games.

He had a big game in the Wolverines’ Big Ten opener against Iowa as well, scoring 18 points.

“He’s been playing great for us,” coach Juwan Howard said. “Franz has been affecting the game in other ways than just putting the ball in the basket. He’s been out there defending, rebounding, battling against bigs who have 50 and 70 pounds more than him. They’re also taller than him, but he’s been competing and diving for loose balls. He’s been affecting the games in different ways.”

Wagner scored 18 of his points against Oregon after halftime. Those points went to waste as Michigan (8-3) lost for the third time in four games.

“It was really frustrating,” Wagner said afterward. “Disappointing. We could’ve won the game even after the way we started. It’s just disappointing, but at the same time I’m really proud of our guys and how we played together, fought back together. We had to play with more energy, and we had that in the second half.”

Wagner provides good size at the wing for the Wolverines and another perimeter threat. They hope he develops into an NBA prospect, just like his brother.

His performance against the Ducks was evidence of what he can do against top competition.

“I don’t get anything for one good game,” he said. “We have to get ready for the next one. I’m just trying to get consistent. It’s about staying in the gym and working hard. It’s pretty motivating now. I mean, we’ve lost two straight.”

The Wolverines were ranked No. 4 after winning their first seven games but have dropped to No. 14 in the latest rankings. The afternoon tilt against Presbyterian is one of two games they’ll play before diving into the Big Ten season on Jan. 5. They will host UMass Lowell on Dec. 29.

The Wolverines should be able to give their reserves plenty of playing time on Saturday. Presbyterian dropped to 2-9 this season with an 81-58 loss to Jacksonville on Wednesday.

Sophomore guard Chris Martin matched his career high with 19 points and sophomore forward Cory Hightower, who grew up in Flint, Mich., added 11 points.

The Blue Hose’s only victories this season have come against VMI and Toccoa Falls. Their most impressive performance this season came on Nov. 18, when they lost at Notre Dame by just 10 points.

Hightower (12.3 points per game) and Martin (10.4) are the only players averaging double figures.

The Blue Hose finished 18-15 last season, including a 9-7 record in the Big South. They also won two games in the postseason CIT tournament.

–Field Level Media

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