After a stressful finals week, students have different tactics for unwinding. Some visit their local watering hole, some take solace in simply seeing their families.
The Michigan men’s basketball team unwound by beating the brakes off of Alabama A&M.
It was almost immediately obvious how the game would go, as the Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 11-3 overall) got out to a 19-9 lead just under 7 minutes in.
Things only got uglier from there.
Redshirt sophomore guard Charles Matthews poured in 22 first-half points, and Michigan finished the opening frame shooting 71-percent en route to 51-23 halftime lead. Matthews finished the game with a career-high 31 points.
“He has been gaining more and more confidence,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “… He’s starting to understand how this all works and choosing his spots more carefully. So, I thought he took 15 good shots. If you take 15 good shots, that’s a lot of shots, number one, but he took 15 good shots, and as he continues to work, he can do a lot of things.”
On the Wolverines’ first possession of the second half, after the Bulldogs (0-12) missed a three-pointer, senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was left wide open in the right corner. He didn’t miss.
The shot spurred a 10-0 run that staked Michigan to a 39-point lead, and it cruised the rest of the way, winning 97-47.
The domination looks even worse when you realize the Wolverines didn’t play as well as they could have.
For one, they were without junior forward Moritz Wagner – the team’s leading scorer — who missed the game with a bone bruise in his foot. Even if his team didn’t need it, Wagner could have provided even more of an offensive punch. Additionally, Michigan had 12 turnovers – eight in the first half – which was the most they’ve had all season.
None of that mattered, though. Michigan’s defense was exemplary once again, forcing 25 turnovers and holding Alabama A&M to 35-percent shooting. Add that to the offensive performances of Matthews, fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson, who had 18 points, and Abdur-Rahkman, who had 14, and the result was a cakewalk for the Wolverines.
“Hated the turnovers in the first half. Hated it.” Beilein said. “Because there’s some things we’ve been working on that we did not do. At the same time, we made enough shots, and we executed just enough, and the second half was a very similar thing. Very rarely do you have up 27 at half and you duplicate it the second half.”
Michigan will return to Crisler Arena on Dec. 30 to face Jacksonville. It will be the Wolverines’ final nonconference game of the season, as the Big Ten slate begins on Jan. 2.
With that, of course, the intensity of Michigan’s games will pick up. But after the rigorous stretch in the Wolverines’ schedule that ended against Texas, Thursday’s game wasn’t just a welcome reprieve from academics, but a necessary breather in the midst of their season.
“We’ve played a lot of really good teams,” Robinson said. “To come out before this Christmas break 11-3, I think, is an accomplishment. You know, obviously, we’re not satisfied with that, but I think we learned a lot about our team.”