No hangover: No. 18 Michigan breezes past George Washington
Uncasville, Conn. — There might’ve been some concern about a possible letdown or lack of focus, especially with the youth on Michigan's team.
The Wolverines were riding high after an impressive pummeling of No. 8 Villanova just three days ago in a repeat of last season's national title game.
No. 18 Michigan showed no effects of a hangover and jumped all over George Washington early in the first and second halves Saturday to run away with an 84-61 victory in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews finished with 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting, sophomore guard Jordan Poole scored a career-high 22 and Zavier Simpson flirted with a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Michigan, which rolled to its fourth consecutive double-digit win.
Michigan (4-0) advances to face Providence, a 76-67 winner over South Carolina, in the championship game of the tournament at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will be televised on ESPN.
"We're really pleased about that one. I think we got off to a great start thanks to Charles," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They came back in the first half and it looked like it was going to be a good game and we didn't play very well the last five or six minutes.
"When we came into halftime, these guys value passing the ball to each other and we had tremendous assist totals coming out the second half. That with really good defense, that was the difference in the game."
As Beilein alluded to, George Washington (0-4) managed to hang around thanks to a late first-half run. But the second half was never close as Michigan quickly flipped the switch and dished out 15 second-half assists to turn it into a blowout.
The Wolverines made their first seven shots — highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by Simpson — to open the half with a 13-2 run and widen the margin to 48-28 with 17:25 remaining.
Then after Michigan missed its first shot of the second half at the 15:26 mark, Poole knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers to make it 61-35 and essentially pulled the curtain down on George Washington with 12:50 to go.
The lead eventually ballooned to 78-41 with 7:36 left thanks to a 15-2 run that featured two more 3-pointers from Simpson, which turned the rest of the game into a battle of the benches.
The Wolverines shot 50 percent (31-for-62) from the field and from 3-point range (15-for-30) in what was their best offensive performance of the young season. The 15 3-pointers were more than Michigan made in its first three games combined (14).
"I think most us and myself, our confidence never really wavers," Matthews said. "It comes out in practices, everybody staying late, getting extra shots up. Everybody is always working on their craft so we understand shots are going to fall. We work on that all the time, worked on it all summer, so it was only a matter of time."
Much like the second half, Michigan's offense was blistering over the first 10 minutes of the first half. The Wolverines knocked down five of their first eight attempts from beyond the arc to jump out to a 28-10 lead.
Most of the damage came during a 22-5 run over a six-minute span where Michigan was able to get out and get open looks in transition. Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers (11 points) buried a pair of 3-pointers and Poole splashed one of his own to give Michigan a 20-8 advantage at the 13:47 mark.
Matthews joined the party with a corner 3-pointer of his own before a driving layup by Simpson capped the run, giving Michigan an 18-point cushion with 10:03 left in the half.
But George Washington began to find a rhythm as Michigan’s ball movement and offense became stagnant. The Wolverines missed five consecutive shots and the front end of two one-and-ones during a scoreless drought that lasted over five minutes and scored just seven points over the final 10 minutes.
Behind DJ Williams, George Washington mustered a 14-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits, 30-24, at the 3:26 mark. Williams scored all 10 of his team-high 16 points during the stretch.
That's as close as George Washington would get before Michigan bounced back with a second-half blitz to overwhelm the Colonials.
"A lot of the message after the Villanova game was handling success and how teams just struggle with that and it's very natural," Beilein said. "Michigan is not going to fall into that trap. GW has got a lot of talent. They got some young players and they'll grow and get better and better. But we couldn't fall into that trap of not playing defense and we did a little bit at the end of the first half.
"That's really a good sign when we can come out of a great win like that (at Villanova) and come out and play as hard we did."
Michigan vs. Providence
Tip-off: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.
Records: No. 18 Michigan 4-0, Providence 3-1
Outlook: The two teams will square off for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament championship. It will mark the third all-time meeting between the teams and first encounter since 2004 ... Providence rallied to beat South Carolina, 76-67, behind David Duke's 20 points to reach the tournament's title game.