At halftime, the score was Alabama A&M 23, Charles Matthews 22.
Nope, that’s not a typo.
The redshirt sophomore hardly broke a sweat with his 8-for-9 start from the field — his one missed field goal coming at the halftime buzzer.
The rest of the Michigan men’s basketball team added 29 points for a 51-23 advantage after 20 minutes, a margin that was hardly unexpected before the onset of Thursday’s 97-47 victory over the winless Bulldogs.
Credit a flimsy Alabama A&M defense or the absence of leading scorer Moritz Wagner if you would like, but leave no doubt about the message Matthews has sent in the non-conference slate: he is the go-to guy for buckets.
“I think he’s starting to understand how it all fits together,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “… I can’t tell you how receptive he is to coaching. It’s just ‘Yes, sir. No, sir,’ eyes right on you. He’s just — Luke (Yaklich) coaches him a lot, I coach him a lot — he’s just getting better and he recognizes his mistakes. The 3-point shot is what we were all waiting (for).”
And on Thursday, Matthews was scoring every way he could to overtake Wagner’s per game output with a career-high 31 points on 12-for-15 shooting — the first 30-plus point total from a Wolverine since Aubrey Dawkins in 2015.
From long range, he started the contest with a jumper at the top of the key, sprinkled in two 3-pointers and even connected on four free throws in the first half. The charity stripe has been a sore subject for Matthews this season, but going 5-for-8 on Thursday is a smidge of an improvement compared to the 51-percent mark he was at before the game.
He has often found success executing on dribble-drive pull-ups, but a salvo of and-one opportunities — Matthews had four — showcased an aggressiveness that is needed for a trigger-happy Michigan team.
“On the offensive side, me and (assistant coach DeAndre) Haynes, we work night in and night out,” Matthews said. “Every day in practice, he’s on me, teaching me different moves, different ways to get my shots off. Coach Haynes and Coach Beilein are helping me become a more effective scorer.”
And of course with any wholesome blowout, Matthews found time to punish the rim at will, slamming home four emphatic dunks to the amusement of the Wolverine faithful in attendance at the late-night, lopsided tilt.
“He’s always been aggressive early on, which is a part of what makes him so hard to guard,” said fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson. “He’s always in attack mode. We’re at our best when he’s doing that. I’m always gonna be in his ear to continue to push him to be like that.”
At the 9:36 mark of the second half with the game well out of reach, Beilein pulled Matthews out. His work was done. Crisler Center rose to its feet, showering Matthews with deserved applause and praise.
For the guard, it’s easy to set career highs when it’s his first season playing substantial minutes. And as the arguable No. 1 scoring option too, his stat line has been polished neatly.
But don’t tell him about his accolades. His thoughts on being the first 30-point scorer in three years?
“I had two turnovers and I didn’t rebound that much. You can’t continue to be happy over everything. I mean, I scored the ball well, but still.”