Michigan defense sticks it to Texas for big win
Austin, Texas — Last season’s contest between Michigan and Texas was a grueling, grind-it-out affair.
The second act wasn’t much different.
Michigan shook off rough starts at the beginning of both halves and clamped down defensively to walk away with a 59-52 win over Texas Tuesday at the Frank Erwin Center.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and made several key baskets down the stretch for Michigan (9-3), which outrebounded Texas 40-31 and limited the Longhorns to season lows in points and field-goal percentage (36.5 percent).
Charles Matthews added 11 points and seven rebounds, and Moritz Wagner, who left the game late in the second half with a right ankle injury, and Duncan Robinson each scored 10.
Dylan Osetkowski scored 17, Kerwin Roach II 11 and Mohamed Bamba had 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for Texas (6-3), which was without leading scorer Andrew Jones (wrist fracture) and entered the game averaging 78.3 points.
“I was really impressed with Texas' defense and how hard they played,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I think we were very fortunate, but our kids also deserved the win.
"If we didn't play defense tonight, we wouldn't have got the victory.”
After Michigan made 11 of its final 14 first-half field goals to take a 12-point lead into halftime, Texas turned the tables and used an 8-0 run with six points from Osetkowski on a three-point play and 3-pointer to cut Michigan’s lead to 35-31 with 17:38 remaining.
The Longhorns continued to push and put pressure on the Wolverines, pulling within three roughly three minutes later after Osetkowski and Bamba combined to make three free throws.
But Michigan responded, using a 13-2 run over the next six minutes to regain control. It started with an 11-0 blitz on a 3-pointer and driving layup by Matthews sandwiched around back-to-back 3-pointers by Wagner to extend the lead to 50-36 with 8:09 to play.
“We just look each other in the eye and we just stick together through everything,” Matthews said. “We gave up leads before, so we just said we're not going to do this again and everybody kept their composure.”
After making just one of 10 shots during Michigan’s run, Texas countered with a quick 7-0 flurry in a minute to chop the deficit in half, 50-43, at the 6:09 mark. But Abdur-Rahkman banked in a 3-pointer to quell the momentum and make it a 10-point game with 4:53 remaining.
"It just felt like was a normal shot," Abdur-Rahkman said. "I didn't think too much on how deep it was. Shot clock was running down so had to take it."
Texas made one final push and whittled the lead down to six, 53-47, in the final two minutes. Michigan found yet another answer as it was able to draw a crucial offensive foul on Texas before Abdur-Rahkman came up big once again with three points on a floater and free throw to keep the Longhorns at bay.
“He's been through so many tough games, big games in his career. I'm not surprised,” Matthews said of Abdur-Rahkman’s clutch play down the stretch. “I see him every day in practice. I know how great of player he is. I'm just thankful he did what he did for us tonight.”
Both teams got off to a rather ugly start offensively. The Wolverines were bothered by the Longhorns' length and by the time they made their first basket on a 3-pointer by Robinson in transition with 15:34 left in the first half, they already had four turnovers and four fouls.
But Texas wasn’t faring any better as Michigan dared the Longhorns to shoot from out on the perimeter and from 3-point range. Texas shot 25 percent (5-for-20) from beyond the arc.
Through the first 10 minutes, the two teams combined for only six made baskets and 20 missed shots. However, Michigan began to figure things out on the offensive end by getting downhill and attacking the rim over the final 10 minutes of the half.
"I think you got to go in there, take it at (Bamba) a little bit and let him block a couple shots," Beilein said. "We went in there, hurried some shots and missed some shots that we shouldn't have taken because he was standing there. It really affected us to start the game. But as the game wore on, we got a lot more comfortable with his length."
The Wolverines rattled off an 8-0 run and scored on five straight possessions with layups by Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, an Abdur-Rahkman dunk and a Poole jumper to make it 18-8 at the 6:44 mark.
After Texas trimmed the lead to single digits, Matthews took over down the stretch and scored six straight for Michigan with two free throws, a turnaround jumper and a driving layup to give the Wolverines a 32-20 advantage at the break.
Michigan shot 51.9 percent (14-for-27) in the first half and just 28.6 percent (8-for-28) in the second half, but made several timely baskets when it needed to and four free throws in the final 39 seconds to seal it. The Wolverines shot 40 percent (22-for-55) for the game.
“It was two teams struggled to score just like last year,” Beilein said, referring to last season’s 53-50 win in the home-and-home series. “It was almost in that (53-50) area, but I'm really proud of our kids.
“Last Monday (at Ohio State) we had a similar situation up 13 at the half and we didn't respond in the first four minutes. We didn't come out on fire, but they made a run and we came back and got right back where we were.”