Charles Matthews couldn’t miss.
The redshirt sophomore forward went a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor to lead the Michigan men’s basketball team (4-1) to a dominant dispatching of Chaminade (2-2), 102 to 64, in the first consolation round of the Maui Invitational.
In the first double-double of his career, Matthews scored a team-leading 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds — and flashed his usual defensive ability with two steals and three blocks, as well.
Matthews’ slashing power, meanwhile, helped open room on the perimeter to allow for Michigan to shoot 54 percent from three and 65 percent overall — both season highs. Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson and senior guard Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 21 of their 30 combined points on 3-point attempts.
Roughly eight minutes into the second half, Matthews’ effect on the game was most evident. Following a dunk on the other end of the floor, Matthews pulled down a defensive rebound, led a fast break and found Abdur-Rahkman for an open triple.
And fittingly, Matthews opened the scoring for the Wolverines, too.
For just the second time this year, Michigan started strongly — tonight matching an opening Chaminade three with a spot-up Matthews 3-pointer. And in his first collegiate start, freshman point guard Eli Brooks wasted little time making his presence known, hitting a three on the next possession to ignite a 11-0 run and give the Wolverines a run they wouldn’t relinquish.
Between the under-12 and under-eight media timeouts, Michigan went on a 14-2 run capped off by a steal and dunk off the hands of freshman point guard Jordan Poole. Poole made it off coach John Beilein’s bench for the first time in three games Tuesday, contributing eight points.
As the final seconds of the first half ticked down, Matthews buried a triple to cap off a six-for-six opening frame.
The second half featured more of the same — Michigan was the bigger, more talented group and outscored the Silverswords, 58-39.
Though it was Michigan’s most dominant game of the season, the college basketball world won’t care. The result against Chaminade — a Division II school that plays host to the Maui Invitational every year — doesn’t count towards the Wolverines’ RPI or final record.
Sure, Matthews was exceptional, and the Wolverines, for the first time in the young season, cruised. But the quality of the opposition means that not much can be taken away from Tuesday.
Thus, Brooks’ start is the perhaps most intriguing aspect of the night despite a lackluster five points and two assists.
In the Wolverines’ first four games, sophomore Zavier Simpson started and played the most of any point guard. Tuesday, Simpson was the third player to get a shot at the position, following both Brooks and fifth-year senior Jaaron Simmons. As the point guard position stuggles to generate scoring chances, this could be just the beginning of lineup tinkering for Beilein.
He’ll get more evidence for a long-term decision Wednesday, when Michigan plays a quality, defensive-minded VCU.
With the disapointment of the opening-round loss to LSU combined with the virtual exhibition Tuesday, that game will ultimately decide the success of the Wolverines’ trip to Maui.