Sophomore center talks about his first career double-double at Michigan in Thursday's 61-47 win over Southern Miss. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — The Wolverines haven’t made it easy on themselves.
After needing a pair of second-half surges to make up for its first-half struggles the first two games, Michigan couldn’t buck the trend on Thursday night.
But the Wolverines averted disaster once again, using a career night from sophomore center Jon Teske and a 23-3 second-half run to topple Southern Miss, 61-47, at Crisler Center in the first meeting between the teams.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 14, Moritz Wagner and Duncan Robinson each scored 12, and Teske recorded his first double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Wolverines (3-0).
"I’m always trying to find the good in everything when I can but right now we got three games, it’s a tie game with 10 minutes to go and we had to make foul shots, we had to make plays in the midst of the game,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.
“When you look back at it, some of the times we played much weaker teams and we win by 30, we win by 30, we win by 30 and we don't really know what we know right now. None of these three teams (Central Michigan, North Florida and Southern Miss) we played probably are going to win the national championship, but at the same time it gives us a great measure for ourselves to play under some duress and still win.”
After Michigan watched its 14-point lead evaporate by halftime, Southern Miss (1-1) used a layup by Dominic Magee (10 points) and jumper by Eddie Davis III to grab a 40-36 advantage with 14:30 remaining in the second half.
Michigan coach talks about his team's performance in Thursday's 61-47 victory. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
But the Southern Miss offense disappeared over the next nine-plus minutes as Michigan clamped down defensively — allowing just 14-second half points — and used the 23-3 run to take complete control.
“We knew again we came out with a slow start, we knew we had to pick it up and it had to start on the defensive side,” Teske said. “We knew our shots would fall in the second half. Defensively in the second half, we just got down and guarded and that's what happened."
The Wolverines started the game-changing flurry with 15 straight points. After Wagner started the momentum-shifting flurry with a jumper to cut the deficit to one, Robinson followed with a 3-pointer to put the Wolverines on top, 41-40, and Abdur-Rahkman knocked down a jumper.
Charles Matthews kept it going by splitting a pair of free throws before Robinson buried another 3-pointer and Teske tipped in a missed layup by Abdur-Rahkman and knocked down a 15-footer to make it 51-40 with 6:49 remaining.
Tim Rowe finally ended the run for Southern Miss by splitting a pair of free throws, but Michigan didn’t let up. Matthews made a layup and knocked down a 3-pointer and Robinson drilled another 3-pointer to effectively put the game out of reach, 59-43, with 4:07 left.
“In the second half the first team needed a little pick up so Jaaron (Simmons) and I came in and helped spark that,” Teske said.
“Moe had a bad game today and he'll definitely bounce back. I just go out there and play my game. (Beilein) has trust in me and the guys are pushing me every day in practice and telling me that I'm capable of doing that. It just showed tonight.”
Early on it looked like the Wolverines were going to run away with the game as they jumped all over Southern Miss, ripping off 12 straight points to grab a 12-2 lead with 16:03 left in the first half. Abdur-Rahkman provided the heavy lifting with eight points on two 3-pointers and a leaning runner, while Wagner drew two shooting fouls in the post that led to four straight free throws.
After Southern Miss ended the spurt with a forced shot by Rowe that banked in, Michigan continued to push ahead as Ibi Watson knocked down a baseline jumper and Wagner muscled his way for an easy reverse layup to make it 16-4 at the 12:11 mark.
Then when Teske tagged in for Wagner, he immediately got to work with an and-1 layup and reverse layup off a nice feed from Matthews to give Michigan a 20-6 cushion with 10:02 remaining in the half.
“It was big,” Abdur-Rahkman said of Teske’s production. “We see him work every day in practice and getting better. I was glad to see him get out there and be successful.”
Southern Miss clawed its way back with a 9-2 spurt to cut it the deficit to 22-15, with Michigan’s lone points during the stretch coming on an offensive putback by Teske.
Robinson pushed Michigan’s lead back to double digits, 25-15, with a 3-pointer in transition, but the comfortable cushion was short-lived. Tyree Griffin (15 points) knocked down a 3-pointer to ignite a 10-0 run as Southern Miss made seven of its final eight field goals to close out the half, capping it with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Griffin for a 33-32 edge at halftime and putting Michigan in yet another uncomfortable situation it had to work out of.
With their third win in the bank, the Wolverines now head to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational where they’ll play three games in three days starting Monday night with LSU.