Charles Matthews' shooting woes perplex Michigan's Beilein

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Charles Matthews has only seven 3-point attempts in Michigan's last six games.

Ann Arbor — It was a sequence Michigan coach John Beilein was longing to see during Big Ten play.

Late in the second half against Wisconsin, sophomore guard Eli Brooks swung the ball to redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, who caught the pass, rose and buried a jumper near the free-throw line.

“When was the last time he hit that elbow jump shot?” Beilein said following Saturday’s loss at the Kohl Center. “That's big for us if he can hit that. I watch him do it in practice, but we're not seeing it in games.”

According to data compiled by, Matthews entered last weekend’s matchup on an 0-for-24 skid on mid-range jumpers through six conference games, a significant drop-off compared to the nonconference slate when the mid-range shot was a staple of his game.

But despite the numbers, Beilein doesn’t want Matthews to shy away from shooting now, especially with Michigan nearing the midway point of the Big Ten schedule with Tuesday’s tilt against Minnesota.

“The guy has got a green light on any type of walk-in 3,” Beilein said Monday. “What he sees himself as open or not are two different things. When you don't take it and then you walk on it, that just makes it even worse. He's working on it and we were working on both of those things yesterday.

“He's got to take the shots in practice. He's got to take the shots in games. He's really got to look at this great opportunity to help his team win by taking those shots.”

According to Beilein, Matthews needs to be “more aggressive at completing his dribble toward the basket" and his offensive efficiency must improve.

That starts with Matthews not being afraid to pull the trigger when he’s open from outside instead of using a pump fake and dribbling into a clogged lane. Over the past six games, Matthews has twice as many turnovers (14) as 3-point attempts (seven).

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“We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of courage, a lot of confidence, but what they think might be a great shot is not a great team shot for us,” Beilein said. “We’ve got to continue to work and educate them on what does a ‘Michigan shot’ look like. It’s different for everybody on the team. What is the shot that you're making every day in practice? That's the ‘Michigan shot.’

“It's going to be different from one player to another, but that's what we want you to take. When we try to go above that too much, that's when you get yourself into trouble."

For Matthews, that shot is any clean look on the perimeter. The trouble comes when he doesn't take it and travels before he puts the ball on the floor. Or when uses a shot fake, attacks the lane and then either gets caught moving his feet while pivoting in the lane or makes an uncontested shot tougher by leaning and fading off balance.

But according to Beilein, it’s not just Matthews who needs to stop passing on open perimeter shots. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis does, too.

Brazdeikis is shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range and averaging 3.1 3-point attempts per game, while Matthews is hitting at a 32.7-percent clip on 2.9 attempts.  

“(Brazdeikis) is a big-time shooter and he’s got to look to shoot from outside instead of just driving on everybody like I'm not a shooter. Charles is in the same category,” Beilein said. “I mean, both of them yesterday had shooting drills and they just blew them out of the water.”

It’s a stark contrast from Saturday’s contest when Matthews (five points, 2-for-5 shooting) and Brazdeikis (zero points, 0-for-5 shooting), the team's two leading scorers, combined for as many turnovers as points.

Yet, Beilein doesn't want the rough outing to discourage the duo. He wants it to serve as a learning moment and an eye-opener for what they need to do better as the Big Ten grind intensifies.

"It's a great experience for Iggy right now to grow. It's a great experience to see how people are going to load up and there's not going to be this space that he needs,” Beilein said. “He missed two open shots to start. You can't be afraid to shoot now. The next one you've got to shoot it. He became a driver after that point.

“Charles is doing the same thing. They're just driving. I watch them shoot every day in practice, and then they get into games and they're more comfortable driving. We've got to get them to understand the difference.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

Minnesota at Michigan

Tip-off: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: BTN/950

Records: No. 5 Michigan 17-1, 6-1 Big Ten; Minnesota 14-4, 4-3

Outlook: Minnesota senior forward Jordan Murphy (14.6 points, 12.1 rebounds) ranks seventh in the nation with 11 double-doubles and junior guard Amir Coffey ranks fourth in scoring at 19.6 points in Big Ten play ... Michigan has won 11 of the last 12 meetings between the teams, with 11 games being decided by eight points or less and three requiring overtime.