Michigan's Charles Matthews is 'fierce competitor,' master of defense
Bloomington, Ind. — The defensive numbers were exceptional.
Fewest points per possession (.696) since Nov. 24, 2008. Fewest points scored (46) since posting the same mark on Feb. 25, 2010. Fewest made field goals (16) and field-goal percentage (27.6 percent) since Jan. 18, 2014.
The stifling effort in Michigan’s 69-46 win Friday left Indiana coach Archie Miller calling the offense “inept,” his team “soft,” and the entire performance “embarrassing.”
But one stat line that stood out the most: nine points on 3-for-12 shooting in 25 minutes.
That was Hoosiers freshman sensation and projected lottery pick Romeo Langford’s contribution in what turned out to be Indiana’s second-worst loss at Assembly Hall. And it was another notch on the belt of redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, who surrendered just one basket when guarding Langford.
"There were some times in the first time (meeting) we felt it was easier to switch,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We didn't want any switches at all. We wanted (Matthews) on him in every way that we could possibly get him there and he's really good at that. He takes his matchup personally."
The reasoning behind the different defensive strategy was simple: Beilein wanted one of his best defenders to use his 6-foot-6 frame to bother one of the Big Ten's top scorers at all times.
The move paid off, with Langford failing to crack double digits in scoring for just the second time, finishing with his second-fewest made field goals and falling well short of his season averages of 17.6 points and 48.5 percent shooting.
Unlike the first meeting where Langford posted 17 points with 5-for-11 shooting and was able to get going in the second half, Matthews never let him come close to kicking into gear.
"We know that we don't want to come out here and be lackadaisical with (Langford)," junior guard Zavier Simpson said. "It's not a secret who he is and we're going to stop him to put ourselves in a better situation.
"(Matthews) was extremely key. ... We know the defensive presence that he has that he’ll be able to come in and guard a guy with the ability level and the athleticism that he has."
Of course, it helped Langford sat the final 11:02 of the first half after he picked up his third foul while trying to deny freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis at the basket.
Even while playing all but two minutes in the second half, Langford found little success and room to operate — a frustrating feeling Brazdeikis has experienced when going up against Matthews in practice.
“He's just a fierce competitor and he knows his angles really,” Brazdeikis said. “He's also got that reach and that athleticism, but it's also the way he defends. He cuts off what you like to do best and he's quick to knowing what the player does best.”
What Matthews does best is making the opposing team’s best wing player as uncomfortable as possible and never letting his offensive production sap his defensive effort.
Friday was merely the latest example of that.
Matthews shot just 3-for-10 from the field and missed half his free throws to finish with 10 points — seven of those coming in a 65-second span in the second half. But the plays and stops he made on the other end made all the difference.
"At the end of the day, I thought the energy was contagious,” Simpson said. “Once we seen Charles going at it, it kind of rubs off to myself, rubs off to Iggy, rubs off to rest four players on the floor. We see that, we feel that, and we just keep it going."