'Knocked on our heels': No. 2 Michigan doesn't let up in win over No. 21 Indiana
Ann Arbor — A top-25 opponent. One of the nation’s top freshmen. One of the Big Ten’s premier big men.
It had been more than a month since No. 2 Michigan faced the type of compelling test that No. 21 Indiana provided.
The Wolverines were more than ready as they came out firing and rode a blistering start past the Hoosiers for a 74-63 victory Sunday at Crisler Center.
Sophomore guard Jordan Poole and redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews each scored 18 points for Michigan (15-0, 4-0 Big Ten), which had to dive deep into its bench due to foul trouble and with sophomore forward Isaiah Livers (back spasms) sitting for the second straight game.
Junior guard Zavier Simpson added 12 points, freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis scored 10 and freshman forward Brandon Johns Jr. set season highs with eight points and eight rebounds in critical minutes off the bench for the Wolverines, who are one win away from tying the program record for best start to a season.
"We came out and I think we were in a better rhythm (against) man-to-man (defense) because we just played Penn State," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We had been in a funk there a little bit when we were just playing against all zones. I thought we had a really good rhythm, set the tone, got them in foul trouble and really took advantage of it."
The two-man show of senior forward Juwan Morgan and freshman guard Romeo Langford combined for 42 points on 14-for-33 shooting for Indiana (12-3, 3-1), which never led and had its seven-game winning streak snapped.
Morgan (25 points, 9-for-22 shooting) got going and started giving Michigan serious problems in the second half after Indiana trailed by as much as 19 in the first half. He drew two fouls on junior center Jon Teske, another on redshirt sophomore center Austin Davis and scored seven points as the Hoosiers began to chip away and pull within 50-39 with 16:12 to go.
Michigan throttled it back up with three free throws from Brazdeikis — who drew Morgan’s third foul at the 15:46 mark on a 3-point shot — and a running sky hook from Simpson to make it a 16-point game.
Foul trouble continued to mount for Michigan and Indiana continued to ride Morgan and Langford (17 points, 5-for-11 shooting), who accounted for seven points during an 11-2 spurt that cut the deficit to 57-50 with 10:54 remaining — the first time the Hoosiers didn’t trail by double digits since the 14:16 mark in the first half.
That's as close as it would get as the Wolverines ramped it up with a string of stops and back-to-back baskets by Johns on a tip-in off his own miss and a one-handed dunk to pull ahead 66-52 at the 6:29 mark.
The Hoosiers cut it to single digits once more, 70-61, with 2:59 to go but Poole split the defense for a scooping layup and Simpson drained two free throws to keep the Wolverines’ perfect record intact.
"I think we really beat a good team that is down. They're injured," Beilein said of Indiana, which was without five players on Sunday. "Offensively, Charles and Jordan didn't have the same half in the second half and the first half we found a way to score enough points to beat them.
"Our defense was really consistent and Juwan Morgan is just exceptional ... Really pleased with our overall effort and team defense."
Michigan was geared up for Indiana from the tip and dominated the opening 20 minutes.
The Wolverines drained 13 of their first 16 shots while Indiana’s top two players — Langford and Morgan — couldn’t even make it to the first media timeout before picking up two fouls apiece.
Langford was whistled on Indiana’s opening possession after he was stripped by Matthews. It didn’t get much better for Langford as he joined Morgan on the bench at the 16:01 mark after fouling Matthews again on a dunk.
"We feel like when they were back in the game they were extremely thirsty to get buckets because they had been out for a long time and they wanted to get themselves going," Poole said of Langford and Morgan. "But when you look at scorers like that and guys who have so much talent, you just try to find ways to get them out the game and being able to get two quick ones on Romeo and Juwan helped us."
Michigan promptly took advantage and blew the game open with Poole and Matthews spearheading a 19-4 run to open a 19-point lead with 8:29 left in the first half.
Poole got the ball rolling with back-to-back 3-pointers before Matthews came up with a steal and finished at the rim while being surrounded by three defenders. But even after Indiana called a timeout to get Langford and Morgan back in, it did little to calm things.
Matthews deflected another pass and sprinted to throw down another fast-break dunk to cap a flurry where Michigan scored 12 straight points within a two-minute stretch.
Morgan snapped a four-minute scoring drought to briefly stop the bleeding before Matthews capped the momentous run with a 3-pointer that gave Michigan a commanding 32-13 advantage and left Indiana climbing uphill the rest of the way.
"Michigan did a great job, obviously really ready to play at the start," Indiana coach Archie Miller said. "Precision on offense early on took us back and the hole that we were able to dig ourselves on the road against this team was going to be tough.
"Michigan established themselves very quickly in this game, had us knocked on our heels and on the road you're not going to be able to do that in this league."