Michigan coach talks about Saturday's rivalry rematch in East Lansing where at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title will be on the line. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — There's a possibility Michigan could be at full strength for Saturday’s high-stakes showdown against Michigan State.
According to Michigan coach John Beilein, redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews is nearing his return from a right ankle injury and will be a game-time decision for the rivalry rematch at the Breslin Center.
"Charles was able to practice a little bit today,” Beilein said Friday. “He practiced a little bit yesterday. He'll be out there. He'll go through warm-ups. He'll let us know how he feels.”
Matthews has been day-to-day with a slight ankle sprain he suffered when he stepped on another player’s foot in the first half against Michigan State on Feb. 24. Matthews ended up exiting the game and getting his ankle re-taped, but later returned and finished with four points on 1-for-8 shooting in 28 minutes.
However, Matthews ended up missing the next two games due to the ailment. He sat out the home finale against Nebraska on Feb. 28 and wore a walking boot on his right foot on the bench. Then after being deemed a game-time decision for Sunday’s game at Maryland, he never participated in any pregame warm-ups but shed the boot on the sidelines.
"We'll see what level he can go at,” Beilein said of Matthews' minutes if he's able to play. “But maybe if he can just give us a rest or maybe if he can go full-go, that would be the expectation. We're being very careful with him.”
With Matthews sidelined, Michigan has managed to find a way overcome the loss of its third-leading scorer (12.8 points) and top wing defender.
In his absence, sophomore forward Isaiah Livers has moved into the starting lineup and stepped up by posting his first career double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in the 82-53 win over Nebraska. He followed that up with an 11-point outing, highlighted by a crucial late 3-pointer, in the 69-62 win at Maryland.
"We have to change,” Beilein said of Michigan’s offense without Matthews. “It's just like anything that we do is that we do not coach a system. It's way overblown. We move our system or our program to what fits our players. There are some other things that we can do that we'll do when Isaiah is in the lineup.
“We’re not going to stand there and run the same plays for Charles that we run for Isaiah or the same action. That necessarily wouldn't be the right idea, but whatever he can handle that Charles did before we'll do. Whatever we don't think he's ready to handle we won't do.”
The hope is to have Matthews ready for the postseason. Whether that means he suits up or sits out the regular-season finale, the Wolverines have proven they can succeed both with and without him.
"If he plays, great, we have another great player on the floor with us,” Livers said. “If he doesn't, it's all good. We've got our brothers.”
Michigan at Michigan State
Tip-off: 8 p.m. Saturday, Breslin Center, East Lansing
TV/radio: ESPN/760, 950
Records: No. 7 Michigan 26-4, 15-4 Big Ten; No. 9 Michigan State 24-6, 15-4
Outlook: This is the fourth top-10 meeting in the rivalry series and second this season…Michigan State is 8-2 in Big Ten finales against Michigan…The Spartans are 14-1 at home with every win coming by at least 11 points and nine by 20-plus points…The Wolverines are 6-3 in Big Ten road games but only one victory came against a team (Maryland) with a winning record in conference play.