The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (21-2) looked to shake off their loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes by traveling to the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-11). Michigan is 1-0 against the Scarlet Knights, after their 77-65 victory vs. , and the teams are not scheduled to play again until a potential matchup in the NCAA or Big Ten tournament.
Michigan, with the help of yet another Michigan State loss, retook the top spot Big Ten by defeating the Scarlet Knights. It was nice to see Michigan finally get their good form back and play the way they were earlier in the season.
Lights Out First Half
How many times have I done one of these articles where there was a section on Michigan’s poor shooting? That answer is too many, so it’s great to write the opposite.
This game reminded me of the games where we blew out one of the ranked teams earlier this season, especially the Villanova game. Michigan was shooting as high as 80% at points in the first half. A majority of those misses were due to fouls where Michigan was a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe. When Michigan pulled up for three, I was expecting a make unlike other games (Iowa) earlier this season.
Michigan’s offence was firing on all three cylinders. Those three cylinders were three-pointers, two-pointers, and free throws. Zavier Simpson was making his now trademark running hook shot. Charles Matthews was hitting his mid-range jump shots, and Ignas Brazdeikis was scoring on his driving lay-ups. Not to forget that those three guys were a combined 7-12 from three in the first half. Overall Michigan was a very good 11-23 (48%) from deep and 26-58 (45%) from the field. Michigan stepped up their free throw percentage and was 14-17 (82.4%) on the night.
Staying Out of Foul Trouble
Just like the first section, it was nice to see Michigan staying out of foul trouble. That caused Michigan to lose against Iowa in their last game so staying out of foul trouble was great. At the end of the first half, Michigan had six fouls at the first half but only one was a shooting foul.
Michigan’s first foul was eight minutes into the game and the first foul by a starter was eleven minutes into the game. Isaiah Livers was the only Wolverine with multiple fouls, even though one was very questionable. Michigan’s six fouls turned into only a singular point which made up for Michigan’s lackluster defense in the first half.
Down the stretch this started to become an issue only for Zavier Simpson. He had four fouls but was able to control himself and not foul out, a true sign of his maturity. All other Wolverines had either two or no fouls, excluding Livers’ highly questionable foul, which is a great improvement from the dreaded Iowa game.
Starter’s Successes Hide Bench Woes
Monster performances from four out of Michigan’s starting five made it possible for the bench to get away with its poor night. Michigan’s shocking depth has been a main reason that the Wolverines haven’t been able to truly become the best team in the nation. The bench’s production will be a huge part of Michigan’s run (hopefully) into April. The bench provided only seven points, four rebounds, two assists, and five fouls.
Ignas Brazdeikis was a machine on the offensive end as he scored twenty-three points with five rebounds and a pair of blocks. He was 5-9 from distance, 2-2 from the free-throw line, and 8-14 from the field.
Other standouts were Jordan Poole scoring fifteen points including 3-6 from three, Zavier Simpson scored fourteen points and had seven rebounds and assists, and Charles Matthews had eleven points with five rebounds and four assists.
On February 9, Michigan will host the Wisconsin Badgers (16-6) and look to get their revenge, while the Scarlet Knights will travel to Illinois to play the Fighting Illini (8-15) on February 9.
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