The last time the Michigan men’s basketball team took a double-digit lead on the road ended in a collapse.
The Wolverines (1-1 Big Ten, 9-3 overall) squandered a 20-point advantage last Monday at Ohio State — their most devastating loss of the young season.
And when Texas (6-3) cut Michigan’s lead to just six with two minutes remaining Tuesday, another heartbreaker threatened.
But senior guard Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s first career double-double, Michigan held on to beat Texas, 59-52, in Austin. The win gives the Wolverines their first road victory of the season and another much-needed resume boost.
“Getting a road win in front of 15,000 is always good,” said coach John Beilein. “It’s not a guarantee we’re going to win our next road game, but it will assist us in giving us some confidence going forward.
That confidence-boost required weathering feverish efforts from Texas, which twice cut into 12-plus point Michigan leads during the second half.
The first came in-part from a slow Wolverines shooting start, as the Longhorns shrunk the lead to four around six minutes into the frame.
But on the corresponding possession, redshirt sophomore forward Charles Matthews’ line-drive 3-pointer found twine. Then, junior forward Mo Wagner drilled consecutive 3s — part of a 12-3 stretch for Michigan.
“We came into the second half talking like it was 0-0,” said freshman forward Isaiah Livers. “Basketball is a game of runs. (Surviving) the opposition’s is what you have to do to win games.”
Minutes later, after appearing to roll his ankle on an opponent’s foot, Wagner limped off the floor and into the locker room. He would not return and is considered day-to-day with a sprain.
The early parts of the first half, meanwhile, epitomized ugly basketball.
The Wolverines scuffled out of the gates, as sloppiness contributed to four turnovers on Michigan’s first seven possessions — one via a charge call against Wagner that benched him moments after tipoff.
“They’ve got really good defensive team,” Beilein said. “We couldn’t get any shots and (forward Mo) Bamba affected almost everything we did (shoot).”
But Texas was equally stagnant for longer, hitting just three of its first 14 shots. The absence of guard Andrew Jones — the Longhorns’ leading scorer who sat with a wrist fracture — was especially evident, as his team seemed to lack offensive direction without him. Texas shot just 30 percent and committed six turnovers in the first half.
“(Defense) was the emphasis,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game on the road against a good team like Texas, and we just had to lock up on defense.”
Michigan eventually tightened its ball security and rode the aggressiveness of Abdur-Rahkman to take a 32-20 advantage into the locker room.
That assertiveness would key Abdur-Rahkman to a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds on 7-for-15 shooting.
“He’s been working with (assistant coach) DeAndre Haynes inside,” Beilein said. “Without a doubt he was great for us tonight.”
After, the Wolverines would finally play a strong second-half to win the road — something Michigan will look to do Saturday when it heads to Detroit for its last non-conference game away from the Crisler Center.
“We did just enough to win,” Beilein said. “It certainly wasn’t the most beautiful win, but we’ll take it.”