'We just had it': Michigan hammers Villanova in title-game rematch

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers of  Michigan celebrate with Ignas Brazdeikis after Brazdeikis made a basket and was fouled in the first half.

Villanova, Pa. — Call it a rematch. Call it a revenge tour. Call it unexpected.

Call it whatever you want, but No. 18 Michigan embraced the big stage against No. 8 Villanova in its first road game of the season.

The Wolverines never flinched and dominated from start to finish, making an early statement by pounding the Wildcats in a 73-46 victory in the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Wednesday at Finneran Pavilion.

Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews poured in 19 points and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis scored 18 to lead the charge for No. 18 Michigan (3-0), which recorded 11 steals, blocked six shots and held Villanova to its lowest point total since it scored 43 points against Pittsburgh on Jan. 16, 2013.

Box score: Michigan 73, Villanova 46

"I don't think we knew what to expect going in here," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We really are probably going to be as good as our defense is going to be and it was really good today.

"They're really good at picking you apart and finding a weakness. We didn't have many weaknesses individually on defense today and that was a big difference."

Eric Paschall finished with 10 points and was the lone double-digit scorer for No. 8 Villanova (2-1), which was held to 31.8-percent shooting and finished with more turnovers (21) than made field goals (14). 

More: UM's Brazdeikis makes most of 'shining moment'

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 27-point loss was the fourth-worst home loss by an Associated Press top-10 ranked team in the AP poll era, and Villanova's second-worst under 18-year head coach Jay Wright (worst was 28 points to Creighton in 2014).

"I can't say I'm shocked that this happened," Wright said. "We've had good teams, had some teams that had new pieces. I didn't think it would be like this. I thought we could be down. I watched how we played and we didn't have the attention to detail that we needed to have against a team like this."

After closing out the first half on a 30-9 run and putting on a clinic at both ends, Michigan never let up in the rematch of last season's national title game. Junior guard Zavier Simpson kept the offense rolling with a driving layup and Brazdeikis converted a three-point play to put Michigan up 50-19 with 18:08 to play.

The Villanova crowd desperately searched for a reason — any reason — to come roaring back to life. Paschall provided it with a thunderous dunk over junior center Jon Teske and Simpson added to it by being whistled for a flagrant one foul after getting tied up with Villanova’s Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.

But it quickly fizzled. Michigan held Villanova roughly 7 minutes without a made field goal until Paschall threw down another dunk at the 10:08 mark — only to have sophomore guard Eli Brooks quickly counter with a layup to double up the Wildcats, 60-30, with 9:48 remaining.The best Villanova could do was cut the margin to 62-37 at the 7:35 mark before both teams emptied their benches in the final few minutes.

"This is a November win. That's all it is," Beilein said. "Just like a November loss, that's all it is.

"We just had it tonight and they didn't. Now we got to grow from it. We got to find ways to grow from it."

More: Four-stars Jalen Wilson, Cole Bajema sign with Michigan hoops

Michigan showed from the opening tip it wasn’t going to back down. It used six points from Matthews on a cutting basket, fast-break layup and baseline jumper to set the tone with a 12-4 lead with 15:00 left in the first half.

Michigan’s defense, meanwhile, continued to be as smothering as ever, limiting a potent Villanova offense to just 10 points over the first 10 minutes.

While there were concerns with Michigan’s offense over the first two games, the Wolverines pushed them to the side as they outscored the Wildcats, 30-9, over the final 10:47 of the first half to pull into halftime with a 44-17 lead.

Brooks started the overwhelming run with a 3-pointer and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers followed with a 3-pointer of his own, which led to a five-point possession as sophomore guard Jordan Poole was fouled under the basket on Livers’ shot. Michigan retained possession and Matthews capped it with a turnaround jumper from the elbow to make it 22-8 at the 9:53 mark.

Michigan continued to frustrate Villanova while running the Wildcats out of their own building, using a putback dunk from Matthews to spark a string of 13 unanswered points. Livers and Poole followed with back-to-back 3-pointers, Brazdeikis converted a three-point play and Matthews made a layup to put Michigan up 39-13 with 3:13 left in the half.

Matthews put the finishing touches on the flawless first half with two free throws and a layup off a steal to put the reigning national champs in a 44-17 hole that they never came close to climbing out of.

"We knew it was going to be a dog fight," said Simpson, who finished with nine points, six assists and five steals. "We came out and threw the first punch and we just wanted to keep it up.

"In the past, our second halves we would come out slow. Charles and myself, we wanted to make sure that was the statement at halftime to make sure that we just tried to keep the lead and keep doing things we've been doing so we can have a chance to get the victory."


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins