Michigan coach talks about his team's performance in Saturday's 61-52 win over Wisconsin that avenged its first loss of the season. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — The encore was similar to the first act.
A nip-and-tuck first half with neither team getting much separation. A tense second-half battle that came down to the final minutes. One long grind-it-out affair between two of the nation’s top defenses.
The biggest difference in the rematch between No. 7 Michigan and No. 19 Wisconsin? Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, whose masterful second-half performance carried the Wolverines to a 61-52 win Saturday at Crisler Center.
Matthews finished with a team-high 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting — 16 coming in the second half — and hit two critical baskets in the final 90 seconds for Michigan (22-2, 11-2 Big Ten), which avenged its first loss of the season and maintained its lead atop the conference standings.
Junior center Jon Teske tied his career highs with 17 points and 12 rebounds and headed a gritty defensive effort, while sophomore guard Jordan Poole added 10 points and nine rebounds.
"It's really exactly what happened in Madison," Michigan coach John Beilein said referencing his team's 64-54 loss on Jan. 19. "The score there was 27-25 at half and this time it was 27-all. It got to be six minutes or so in the game and they got away from us. Six minutes to go in this game, we got away from them."
Thanks in large part to Matthews, who made up for his rough performance in the first meeting when he finished with five points and attempted only five shots.
Not that Matthews remembers.
"I've got a pretty short memory," he said. "That's probably why I miss so many shots...I forgot all about that game.
"In the first half I was kind of stagnant. They (coaches) got me where I could be moving and more active in the offense...It's as simple as that. It was really just me getting the ball more in the second half and finding ways to get the ball more."
Michigan started feeding Matthews after halftime when it took advantage of a hook-and-hold flagrant foul committed by Wisconsin’s Brad Davison on Teske that produced a four-point possession.
Teske sank both free throws and Matthews followed with a baseline jumper to give Michigan a 31-27 lead with 17:31 to go in the second half.
With Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ in foul trouble and planted on the bench for a nine-minute stretch, Teske and Matthews carried the offense and attacked the rim, with Matthews backing down his defender and scoring four consecutive baskets for Michigan at one point.
"Being able to have a guy who can make four shots in a row, five shots in a row down the stretch and (take advantage) of his mismatch was definitely huge," Poole said. "That's a huge reason we won."
Still, the tandem could only push Michigan’s lead to five on four occasions as Wisconsin answered each time.
When Happ returned at the 9:13 mark, Wisconsin (17-7, 9-4) pulled within one four times in the final 7:34. But Michigan was able to counter with clutch shot after clutch shot thanks to two baskets by Matthews and a three-point play from Teske.
After junior guard Zavier Simpson made a scooping layup that made it 53-50 with 3:52 to go, Michigan had several chances to drive a stake into Wisconsin. The Wolverines ended up missing a pair of open looks from 3-point range, but continued the fend off the Badgers and string together big stop after big stop.
Eventually, Matthews delivered the dagger and capped his second-half show with two jumpers — the second on a fadeaway from the free-throw line that beat the shot clock — to give Michigan a 57-50 advantage with 23 seconds left.
Happ finished with 18 points on 9-for-19 shooting and had 11 rebounds for Wisconsin, which shot 40.7 percent (24-for-59) from the floor but only made two baskets in the final 5:32.
"It was much like the game in Madison. It was going to come down to the last couple minutes," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "It was a little bit of a flip of the script in terms of them making plays in the last two minutes and also some other parts of the game.
"They were able to convert and took advantage of opportunities we didn't. They did a good job finishing out the game."
Just like the first meeting, Happ had everything working early and put Michigan in a hole. He put on a clinic with his footwork and array of post moves, scoring eight points in the first five minutes to stake Wisconsin to a 13-5 lead.
As frustrating as Happ was around the rim was Wisconsin’s defense. Michigan missed nine of its first 12 shots and didn’t crack double digits until the 10:51 mark on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Isaiah Livers.
That helped Michigan’s offense perk up a little bit and triggered a 9-2 run that gave the Wolverines their first lead, 18-17, with 9:06 left in the half.
Yet, points were far and few between down the stretch. Teske drained a 3-pointer off a pick-and-pop and swatted a shot that led to a fast-break layup to cap a first half that ended deadlocked at 27.
That set the stage for a familiar second-half script — but a different ending Matthews helped rewrite.
"This was a bit of a revenge game," Beilein said. "They did beat us (at Wisconsin). It was our first loss. People stormed the court and we don't like that. Even though it's the right thing to do, when you lose a game and somebody storms the court on you, it's not like, 'Wow, they're storming the court on us.' We don't like that situation.
"Our kids were pretty fired up because they haven't lost much. It hits. It hits them really hard."