The Eagles (1-1) were up 45-40 at halftime and had an eight-point lead early in the second half, but ended up losing a 22nd straight game against a ranked opponent.
Bates, though, was the story of the night.
Eastern Michigan coach Stan Heath did not play Bates in the team’s season-opening game on Monday and the former Michigan State assistant would not say why he sat the sophomore, who transferred last summer from Memphis.
Bates was reinstated to the team last month after prosecutors agreed to drop felony charges against him after police say they found a gun that had altered ID marks in a car he was driving. Defense attorney Steve Haney said the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.
“It was a struggle for him when he was not with the team,” Heath said. “When he came back and talked to the team, the coaches left. I can just tell you that he appreciates his opportunity to be back home, playing with a lot of teammates he has known for years.
“What people see is all the hype, but he’s an 18-year-old kid who works really hard to be an elite basketball player.”
Two years ago, the 6-foot-10 guard became the first high school sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in 2020. He beat out future NBA standouts Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley for the award.
“He started getting compared to Kevin Durant, and that’s hard for any young person,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard recalled.
Howard said Bates’ skills reminded him of what he sees in the NBA.
“There’s a chance for this young man to do some special things in the game of basketball,” Howard said.
Bates was not made available to the media before or after the game, and Heath said it might be a few weeks before he is interviewed by reporters.
His 17 first half points matched his season high from a year ago with Memphis. Bates finished 12 of 19, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, entertaining fans, including a famous Wolverine, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
“Wow,” former NBA and Michigan star Glen Rice said. “I’m rooting for him.”
Clearly, the NBA is also watching.
“Half of the league has had someone at one of our practices to see him,” Heath said.
Eastern Michigan: Bates makes the Mid-American Conference team intriguing to watch. He is one of six players, including four transfers, Heath did not have on the court last season in his coaching debut at his alma mater.
“Eastern Michigan basketball is going to be very good this year,” Heath said.
Michigan: Outside shooting was a weakness — missing 16 of 21 attempts — that the Wolverines will have to improve as teams pack their defenses in to limit Dickinson.
Bates has help, including from guard Noah Farrakhan, who had 19 points, and Tyson Acuff, who had 10 points.
“(Bates) realizes he doesn’t have to do it by himself, but when he has opportunities he should take them,” Heath said.
Eastern Michigan: Plays at Bradley on Tuesday night.
Michigan: Plays Pittsburgh on Wednesday night in New York.