'Dialed in' Michigan regroups, rumbles past Maryland
Ann Arbor — Everything was clicking for Michigan over the first 10 minutes.
The offense was cruising along. The defense was clamping down. The lead was bulging up to 15 points.
The next 30 minutes, however, turned out to be a roller-coaster ride that saw the offense go cold and No. 24 Maryland pull within three points with 10 minutes to go.
The No. 6 Wolverines didn't crumble and found answers when they needed them the most to wash away the taste of a crushing loss with a 65-52 win Saturday at Crisler Center.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews led another balanced attack with 14 points for Michigan (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten), which kept pace atop the conference standings and picked up its sixth win over a Top-25 opponent.
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis added 13 points, junior guard Zavier Simpson chipped in 12 points and eight assists, and the duo teamed up to cap the team's 8-for-10 shooting at the free-throw line with four straight makes in the closing minutes.
"We take stuff personal. We played this game thinking we were playing Penn State again," said sophomore forward Isaiah Livers, who chipped in seven points and four rebounds.
"We took it personal and (Tuesday's) loss was bad. I think everybody on the team — down to our walk-ons and maybe even our managers — didn't feel good after that game because we knew we could play better."
The Wolverines proved it early on. Within the first five minutes, they roared out to a double-digit lead and it looked like the Top-25 showdown was going to turn into a laugher.
But the second half turned into a back-and-forth duel most had expected. Michigan and Maryland (19-7, 10-5) traded baskets over the first five minutes until the Wolverines blinked. Anthony Cowan Jr. splashed two 3s and Bruno Fernando wreaked havoc around the rim to cut the deficit to 38-32 with 14:26 to go.
Michigan pushed back but Fernando continued to assert himself in the post and the offense was gasping for baskets as Maryland pulled within 42-39 on a 3-pointer by Serrel Smith Jr. at the 10:21 mark.
Michigan warded off the threat with a transition layup by sophomore guard Jordan Poole on a one-man fast-break and a 3-pointer from Simpson to get some breathing room, 47-39, with 8:49 to go.
Maryland had a chance to cut it to three again, but Cowan missed a point-blank layup that triggered a critical swing and led to an open 3-pointer for Brazdeikis to make it an eight-point game.
That set up a fast-and-furious stretch where Maryland crashed the offensive glass and continually chucked up shots from deep to no avail. Michigan took advantage with junior center Jon Teske scoring seven straight points, including a key 3-pointer after missing his first six long-range attempts, to widen the lead to 57-46 with 3:12 to go.
"We were all over the glass. We had one possession I think we had four wide-open 3s and we didn't hit any of them," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "Some days it's just not your day. But with that said, we built ourselves too big of a hole.
"I was just disappointed after Anthony missed the layup that we didn't run back on defense the next two possessions. To me that was the game...We've played through mistakes and through things all year. Today we didn't do that at times."
Maryland could only cut it to nine twice in the final 2:44 before Simpson and Brazdeikis iced the game away at the line and put Michigan back on a winning track.
Aaron Wiggins scored 15, Fernando finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Cowan scored 10 for Maryland, which shot 36.4 percent (20-for-55) from the field, committed 16 turnovers and was held to a season-low 52 points.
"I'm sure they'd like to play a little bit better offensively, but defensively they were everywhere, dialed in," Turgeon said. "You could tell it was a team coming off a loss."
Michigan blitzed Maryland from the opening tip-off. The Wolverines were crisp on offense, physical on defense and kept the Terrapins off the boards to race out to a 14-2 lead with 14:40 left in the first half.
The Wolverines found success in transition and continued to turn defense into offense to extend the lead, with Livers draining a 3-pointer and coming up with the loose ball off a scramble that led to an open dunk for Matthews to push it to 21-6 at the 9:35 mark.
"Everybody was very focused on their personnel," Livers said. "Everybody was locked in.
"That (start) was huge. Guys seeing shots go in, some guys are struggling shooting still but to see the score 14-2, that makes guys more relieved when they take a jump shot."
Michigan didn’t give an inch and gave Maryland little room to operate. The Terrapins missed 15 of their first 20 shots, didn’t crack double digits until the 6:54 mark, and didn’t make their first 3-pointer until there was 4:17 left in the half.
But even with Maryland turning it over 13 times and Fernando being held scoreless in the first half, Michigan couldn’t widen the gap as the offense ground to a halt.
The Wolverines missed 14 of 18 shots in the final 11:05 and were outscored 12-6 over the final 9:35 as they trudged into the break with a 27-18 lead.
Yet, that rough finish wasn't enough to deter a determined Michigan team from getting back on track.
"(A loss) doesn't sit well," Simpson said. "It ticks us off.
"With the loss at Penn State, we knew we had to bounce back. We came out with high intensity and we wanted to play together, play hard, play smart. It worked in our favor."