As Zavier Simpson converted a hook shot, extending the Wolverines’ lead to 16 with 14:35 to go in the game, Indiana coach Archie Miller shouted and punched the air in anger, frustration spilling into body language.
Miller spent most of Sunday’s game standing on the visiting sideline with his hands on his hips, shaking his head after missed shots, exasperation open — putting on display just how far ahead Michigan is of his team.
If there was a game for the Wolverines to lose, this was it. Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers missed his second straight game with back spasms, meaning Michigan coach John Beilein had no choice but rely on freshman Brandon Johns and redshirt sophomore Austin Davis at backup center. The Wolverines have sputtered in every game for a month. Indiana is a top-25 team with two All-Big Ten-caliber players in Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan.
It took only minutes for Michigan (15-0 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) to prove otherwise, and minutes more for the Wolverines to take an insurmountable lead on No. 21 Indiana (12-3, 3-1) on their way to a 74-63 win.
This, in contrast to a month of games against subpar competition, was the Wolverines of November, back in full force. This was the team that went into Villanova and stunned the national champs, then ran North Carolina out of the building two weeks later. They stayed undefeated and they looked good doing it.
From the jump, this was Michigan’s game. Sparked by Charles Matthews on both ends, the Wolverines started the contest on a 9-4 run, extending their lead to 23-9, then 30-13, all before the 10-minute mark of the first half.
“We made some shots and we really guarded them,” Beilein said. “I think we were in better rhythm man-to-man, cause we just played Penn State — we had been into a funk there a little bit when we were just playing against all the zones. You don’t know how people are gonna play you. And so I thought we just hit a really good rhythm and we set the tone.”
Matthews, a redshirt junior, looked as good as he ever has in a Michigan uniform early on, getting to the basket and creating points in transition seemingly at will. He drew two fouls on Langford, a future NBA lottery pick, in the game’s opening minutes, then held the five-star recruit to 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. By the end of the first half, Matthews had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, ultimately finishing with 18.
“He’s a dominant scorer, and he’s a dominant defender,” said sophomore guard Jordan Poole. “And Charles doesn’t put himself in situations where he thinks about anybody else. Or matchups, or guys going lottery, or whatever situation. Charles is looking at who’s in front of him and he’s gonna try to kill him every night.”
In front of a multitude of NBA scouts, Matthews wasn’t the only one to impress. After two early 3-pointers, Poole finished with 18 points, his third straight game with over 15.
Indiana did manage to cut Michigan’s lead to single digits midway through the second half, buoyed by Langford and Morgan, who combined for 17 points in the first 10 minutes after the break. After junior center Jon Teske picked up his fourth foul with just over eight minutes to go, the window seemed open for the Hoosiers to mount a comeback.
Johns slammed it shut.
In 13 second-half minutes, Johns did everything asked of him, banging down low and slamming home dunks on his way to eight points and eight rebounds on the day — a performance that could see the backup center job become his to lose.
“He’s sort of trying to learn, ‘What’s the next step? What’s the next play?’ And it’s just really simple things that, as the game slows down for him, he’s more capable of going further,” Beilein said. “But that was a matter of foul trouble by Austin, foul trouble by Jon (Teske) and Brandon getting in there.”
After the game, a calmer Miller stood at the podium trying to describe what happened, the same fate that has befallen the prior 14 coaches to face the Wolverines.
“Undisciplined,” he called his team. “Just some backbreaking plays. Fouling shooters. And again, not being able to convert some easy ones. Just led them to be able to, pretty much, comfortably play the game.”