Wolverines bounce back, 'gut' out win vs. Rutgers
Ann Arbor — It was far from pretty, but it got the job done.
Coming off a 20-point thumping at Nebraska, No. 23 Michigan’s offense puttered along and did enough to wipe out the bitter taste by taking care of Rutgers, 62-47, in grind-it-out fashion Sunday at Crisler Center.
Moritz Wagner scored 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting for Michigan (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten), which improved to 9-0 all-time against Rutgers but was held under 30 points in the first half for the third straight game.
Duncan Robinson added 12 points and shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range, Zavier Simpson had 10 points and eight rebounds, and Charles Matthews scored 10.
“As you could tell in this game, we're tired, we're beat,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Credit Rutgers for playing so tough and not giving us great shots, but I'm just so glad we could gut through this game and get refreshed with our legs but also with our game.
“If you do the math with whatever we had it was eight games in like 22 days … Now we got some time to retool, to refresh a little bit and hopefully we'll be better through it.”
After taking a six-point lead into halftime, Michigan began to add some separation as Wagner scored five straight points on a layup and 3-pointer to make it 37-27 with 15:34 left.
The double-digit lead didn’t last long as Eugene Omoruyi converted a three-point play and Deshawn Freeman hit a jumper to cut it to 38-32 roughly two minutes later.
Much like the first half, though, both teams hit an offensive lull and missed five of six shots before Robinson buried his fourth 3-pointer to ignite a 6-for-7 shooting stretch that put Michigan in control, 54-39, with 5:41 remaining.
Jordan Poole, Wagner and Simpson combined to score on four layups on consecutive possessions before Wagner drained a 3-pointer to cap the stretch and give the Wolverines enough cushion.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Wagner each made two free throws in the final 3:42 to help seal it for Michigan, which led by double digits the final 10 minutes of the game.
Corey Sanders scored 12 and Freeman finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Rutgers (12-9, 2-6), which shot 33.3 percent (17-for-51) and finished with 13 turnovers and just one assist.
“It was a tough game for us,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “We knew coming in how good they were, how explosive they were offensively, but we couldn't score today. Their defense was terrific and if you can't score, you can't win – certainly not on the road in this league against a ranked team that's well-coached and has good players.”
The offensive struggle was real for Michigan early on, as it missed 10 of its first 11 shots, including a blown layup and two missed open 3-pointers.
Rutgers wasn’t faring much better as it missed four of its first five shots but used an 8-0 run to take an early six-point lead six minutes into the game.
The difference was the misses kept piling up for Rutgers, which went eight minutes without a point and missed nine straight field goals. Michigan took advantage of the dry spell with a 17-2 flurry to take a 22-12 lead with 4:22 left in the half.
Robinson provided the spark and started a string of 13 straight points with a trio of 3-pointers while Poole added a layup and Jon Teske knocked down a baseline jumper.
“Duncan Robinson, it's what we needed today from him,” Beilein said. “He's probably more rested than some of the guys and when he made the 3s in the first half when Isaiah (Livers) was in foul trouble.
“It's really important that he just comes out hunting (shots) more and he did today ... I sent him a quick text today saying, ‘Duncan you're going to be terrific today. Just come out shooting,’ and he did.”
After Rutgers finally snapped its drought with a layup by Omoruyi to cut it to 18-12 at the 5:19 mark, Wagner and Matthews scored on driving layups to cap the run and give Michigan its first double-digit lead.
The Scarlet Knights closed within three after Freeman corralled an airball and scored on a hook to cap a 7-0 run at the 2:07 mark.
Simpson countered with a three-point play and Abdur-Rahkman knocked down two free throws down the stretch to give Michigan a 27-21 advantage at the break and its first halftime lead in six games.
“I thought we had some opportunities to hang around in this game and every time we made a little bit of a run they bounced back,” Pikiell said. “Duncan Robinson made some big 3s end of the shot clock and just kept the momentum going in their way. I thought we had to grind (out) this game. We didn't and to the credit of Michigan, they did.”