ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Armstrong State University men's basketball team opened up its 2016-17 season with an exhibition contest at the University of Michigan, falling 77-49 to the Wolverines in the return of assistant coach and Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer Cazzie Russell to the "House That Cazzie Built," Crisler Arena.
Russell - in his third season as an assistant for head coach Evans Davis - was honored pre-game in the first game he has participated in as a coach against his alma mater and the building he helped build after leading the Wolverines to three straight Big Ten Championships and two NCAA Final Four appearances.
Once play began, Michigan flexed its shooting muscle, shooting 55.2 percent from the field (16-of-29) to build a 40-23 lead at the break. In the second half, the Pirates outscored the Wolverines by a 13-7 margin over the first four and a half minutes to cut the lead to 11, 47-36, but Michgan immediately responded with a 15-0 run over the next five minutes to reassert control with a 62-36 advantage and close out the exhibition win.
"I'm very appreciative of Coach Beilein and Michigan for giving us the opportunity to come up for this exhibition game," Armstrong State head coach Evans Davis said. "It was an opprtunity for my guys to experience a first class program and how things are done. More importantly, it was a chance to honor one of college basketball's all-time greats. We still have a lot of work to do, but we will build on the positives from this game and continue to honor the process."
The Pirates finished the night hitting just 27 percent of their shots from the floor (17-of-63) and committed 19 turnovers. Michigan shot 50.8 percent from the floor (32-of-63) on the evening. Armstrong State hung tough on the boards with the Wolverines as Michigan held just a four-rebound edge (42-38) and the Pirates had more offensive boards than the hosts (13-9).
Junior KJ James led the way for the Pirates, hitting 5-of-10 shots from the floor and all six of his free throws for 16 points, to go with his team-high seven rebounds. Junior Montrel Goldston added nine points as well for Armstrong State.
Michigan placed four players in double figures, led by Zak Irvin and Moritz Wagner's 15 points apiece. Derrick Walton Jr. added 12 points and DJ Wilson was one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Armstrong State will return to action on Monday, traveling across town to Savannah State for an 8:15 p.m. matchup with the Tigers in the "Battle By The Marsh."