Ann Arbor — No matter who lines up across from redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, the opposing player is going to get the same treatment.
That even goes for Indiana star freshman Romeo Langford, who is considered a lock to be a first-round pick and is even projected by some mock NBA drafts to be a lottery selection.
“Charles sees everybody the same way,” sophomore guard Jordan Poole said. “He's a dominant scorer and he's a dominant defender. Charles doesn't put himself in situations where he thinks about anybody else or matchups or guys who are going (in the) lottery. Whatever the situation is, Charles is looking at who is front of him and he's going to try to kill him.”
In a top-25 matchup with no shortage of NBA scouts on hand, Matthews stole some of the spotlight by outperforming Langford and helping lead No. 2 Michigan to a 74-63 win over No. 21 Indiana Sunday at Crisler Center.
Matthews set the tone on Indiana’s first possession, where he jumped the passing lane, deflected a pass and drew a foul on Langford just 36 seconds into the game.
From there, Matthews continued to breathe fired and posted one of his most impressive halves this season, making his first five shots from the field as the Wolverines roared out to a 19-point lead midway through the first half.
“I know he wanted that challenge,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He's got a lot of respect for Romeo and as a fourth-year guy right now, we wanted to play through him as much as we could and see what he was going to do in that situation.
“The last couple days in practice I really felt that we needed to go back to him with some more stuff just to make sure that he continued to grow.”
The move seemingly paid off as Matthews showed off all the facets of his game. From burying 3-pointers from the wing to intercepting passes and throwing down fast-break dunks to finishing through traffic at the rim, Matthews did a little bit of everything in a dominant first half where he poured in 16 points and limited Langford to six points on six shots.
For Beilein, the one play that stood out came with 16:01 left in the first half. Matthews got the ball out near the 3-point line, beat Langford with his first step, went strong to the hoop and threw down a two-handed jam while being fouled.
According to Beilein, it was a designed play to try and draw a second foul on Langford, and it worked to perfection.
"That was a strong baseline drive and that's who he can be," Beilein said. "If there's a block (or) charge (call) at the end, so be it. But when you get to the rim, you're one of the elite athletes — maybe the quickest athlete on that court out there today — and you've got to do that."
Matthews said given the magnitude of Sunday's game, he was trying to be aggressive every time he touched the ball and was looking to be assertive when he put it on the floor.
And even though he wasn’t aware more NBA scouts were in attendance — “I don’t know where they sit at,” Matthews said — and he isn't the type to get caught up in the hype of a one-on-one matchup, he fed off all the juice and energy that naturally flows when a ranked foe and sellout crowd mix.
It resulted in a dazzling all-around display as Matthews finished with a team-high 18 points (7-for-15 shooting), six rebounds and all four of Michigan’s steals, while holding Langford to 17 points on 5-for-11 shooting, which marked the first time in eight games the freshman sensation finished with less than six made field goals.
“I feel like I'm ready to go. I feel like I'm ready to battle,” Matthews said. “Coach is actually on me more when I play against — I don't want to say mediocre teams — but Coach B feels I kind of take plays off sometimes. But big games they're not really worried about me.”
On Sunday, Matthews showed why.
Livers a no-go
For the second straight game, sophomore forward Isaiah Livers dressed and went through warm-ups but didn’t end up playing due to back spasms.
Livers appeared tentative during the team's pregame drills and appeared to be going through the motions at a cautious pace. With roughly 15 minutes remaining in warm-ups, he left the court to head back to the locker room before the team announced he was doubtful to play shortly before tip-off.
“I thought we made progress because the training staff took some steps to try to relieve the pain and loosen things up,” Beilein said. “I thought we were making progress, but it wasn't enough for him today. We're never going to dabble in that area — if he says no, he says no. That's up to him and we trust him 100 percent. He's worked for two more days on this, so it's been four days working on it.”
Livers will have a four-day window to receive more treatment before Michigan travels to Illinois for its next game on Thursday.
“I'm not worried that it's going to be lingering but if in four days he hasn't gotten better, we may look at other methods,” Beilein said. “But right now, we'll let the doctors take care of it.”