After making a season-high 14 3-pointers against UCLA on Saturday, the Michigan men’s basketball team once again used the deep shot to power its offense.
The Wolverines surpassed the previous program record of 17 made threes and 42 three-point attempts in a single game by hitting 19 of their 45 three-pointers on the way to blowing out Central Arkansas, 97-53.
“We never talk about what type of shots we’re going to take, but we’re going to take the shots the defense gives us,” said Michigan coach John Beilein.
Added junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: “We knew we were going to get open shots. Either by kicking it out, drive and kick, or throw it into the high post and kicking it out we knew we could get open threes.”
The tone was set when Michigan attempted 22 shots from deep in the first half, while going a perfect 7-for-7 from inside the arc as well.
Abdur-Rahkman pushed the Wolverine offense from the start, rebounding from one of the worst shooting nights of his career against the Bruins.
“It feels good when you’re going through a slump like that and you just want to see your shot go in,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “It definitely helps your confidence for the next couple games.”
Abdur-Rahkman opened his three-point account on the game’s first possession and didn’t look back. The junior put in a solid 14-point performance, going 5-for-9 from the field and 4-for-8 from deep after missing seven shots last Saturday.
Redshirt junior guard Duncan Robinson was also a key piece of the Wolverines’ bombardment of the Bears from behind the arc. All nine of Robinson’s field goal attempts were from deep, as the redshirt junior continued to raise his scoring average off the bench with 12 points Tuesday.
In the second half, the Wolverines changed course offensively, looking to go through the post more. That led to sophomore forward Moritz Wagner becoming the focal point of Michigan’s offense. Wagner fell two points shy of his career high of 20 points when he was removed from the game for the final time midway through the second half. He finished the night with 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Wagner was also made an impact on the boards, tying redshirt sophomore DJ Wilson with a team-high seven rebounds.
“We tried to put more of a point of emphasis throwing it down to (Wagner),” said senior guard Zak Irvin. “We’ve been playing well down there. At the start of the second half, a quick 10 points for us to get us off to a good start. We’ve been trying to throw it down there to him. We know he can score and he can pass out of it.”
Irvin kept Michigan rolling in the second half too, scoring half of his 16 points in the period while converting all three of his shots from the field. Two of Irvin’s fellow starters, Wilson and senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., combined for 20 points.
Eleven Michigan players found themselves with points on the box score Tuesday night. Sophomore forward Brent Hibbitts even scored the first points of his career on a 3-pointer that erupted the Wolverines’ bench.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of our role players, especially our freshmen, to step in and get pretty good minutes tonight,” Irvin said. “It’s huge, we’re going to need them later on in the season.”
While Central Arkansas was nowhere close to the challenge that UCLA proved to be, it was a chance for Michigan to regain some confidence lost from the second-half blowout it suffered Saturday. The Wolverines will look for more of the same in the final two non-conference games, as they hope tonight’s offensive barrage can extend into Big Ten play.
“We had a really good practice yesterday where we shot the ball like that again,” Beilein said. “So I think we’re at a confidence level with that, a little bit (Southern Methodist), Marquette-like. Our confidence was back to make shots, to see each other, to trust each other.”