December 02, 2019
Gonzaga coach Mark Few and North Carolina’s Roy Williams are closing in on 1,500 combined victories throughout their lengthy careers. Meanwhile, first-year Michigan head coach Juwan Howard hasn’t even reached double-digits in the win column yet.
But the rookie’s team beat both those veterans on consecutive days to capture the championship of the 2019 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis. The title came in convincing fashion, as the Wolverines handled Gonzaga 82-64.
“I am just so proud of this group and how they competed throughout the weekend,” said Howard, a player on Michigan’s famed Fab Five teams of the 1990s. “We are family, which is one thing we always stress. There are no egos. We push one another on the staff. So if the players see that in the leadership, why not fall in line? … We’re a connected group, and this is a great example of us being connected and being all in.”
Not only did Howard enter the tournament unproven as a head coach, but the Wolverines (7-0) were unranked. Both perceptions likely changed following Michigan’s three games in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Wolverines beat two top-10 teams (No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 6 North Carolina, 73-64 in the semifinals) as well as Iowa State.
“I’m sure we are on the map now,” Howard said. “When you are beating teams like Iowa State and North Carolina and Gonzaga, you are no longer under the radar."
Much like they did in scoring 19 unanswered points against UNC, the Wolverines put away Gonzaga (8-1) with a sudden second-half flurry. Michigan held a slim 38-36 advantage early in the second half, then went on a 24-7 run in less than six minutes to build the lead to 62-43.
That run was part of a stretch in which the Wolverines made 14-of-16 shots. Overall, they sank 54 percent of their attempts from the field (60 percent in the second half) and went 12-for-23 from 3-point range.
“Most coaches want to control the game as much as possible, but we are lucky enough to have a coaching staff where they allow us to get on the run and take open shots,” said Michigan forward Isaiah Livers, who scored a game-high 21 points.
Few said he already is impressed with Howard’s coaching ability, and the way he connects with his players.
“It’s great to have him in our game,” Few said. “It’s good to have a good young coach like him come in, and he’s doing a great job. They run some great stuff. They’re very physical, and we had some problems with their physicality on both ends.”
Michigan center Jon Teske scored 19 points (13 in the first half) and grabbed 15 rebounds, and was named the tournament MVP. Livers joined Teske on the All-Tournament team, along with Filip Petrusev of Gonzaga, Payton Pritchard of Oregon, and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell.
The Battle 4 Atlantis will have double the excitement in 2020, as the inaugural women’s tournament will be held Nov. 21-23, the week before the men’s event. The women’s field will consist of Central Michigan, Marquette, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Florida and Syracuse.
Meanwhile, 2012 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis champion Duke will be part of another loaded men’s field in 2020. The Blue Devils will be joined by Creighton, Memphis, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Utah, West Virginia and Wichita State.