Nolan Bianchi with three quick takeaways from Michigan's 64-49 victory over Florida in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Defense shows up
Whether Michigan's defense is strong enough to win a championship remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it's almost single-handedly winning games.
Michigan held Florida to just 21 points in the second half. The Gators shot 8-for-28 from the field and made just three 3-pointers in the second half after going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Gators shot just two free throws all game, and Florida's bench went scoreless in the final 20 minutes.
Wolverines win in spite of offense
Michigan wound up getting the job done, but at times, its offensive efficiency left a lot to be desired.
Portions of the second half were reminiscent of previous losses to Michigan State, in which a second-half lead looked to be in jeopardy due to prolonged scoring droughts.
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis had the first points of each half, but otherwise, couldn't find his scoring touch, finishing with five point on 2-for-8 shooting. Even Michigan's leading scorer, Jordan Poole, wasn't all that spectacular from the field. Five of his team-high 19 points came by way of free throws — which he converted at a 100-percent clip — but hit just 5 of 15 from the field.
The Wolverine defense did enough to punch its ticket to the Sweet 16, but against better opponents, its performance on offense might spell a death sentence in the later rounds.
Matthews has his swagger back
Michigan senior Charles Matthews missed a majority of the Wolverines' games down the stretch with an ankle injury suffered in February's home loss to Michigan State.
After a semi-productive Big Ten tournament, Matthews showed he was back to his old self in Thursday's round-of-64 win over Montana with a 22-point, 10-rebound performance, and continued that effectiveness in Saturday's win over the Gators.
Matthews wasn't as productive on the offensive side of the ball — he finished with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting — but he was efficient, particularly in the first half, and showed poise throughout, playing 37 minutes.
On defense, Matthews was a workhorse. The senior guard had seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He held top Florida scorer KeVaughn Allen to eight points on 3-of-7 shooting on a night where it looked like high-volume scoring might be able to bring down the Wolverines — at least until both teams struggled to keep pace in the second half.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.