Ann Arbor — Charles Matthews isn’t shy about letting it fly.
Matthews, a redshirt sophomore wing, scored 23 with 14 shot attempts in an exhibition win over Grand Valley State in his Michigan debut, and was the lone Wolverine to finish with at least 10 attempts.
He followed that up by launching a team-high 19 field-goal attempts in Saturday’s 86-66 season-opening win over North Florida, taking 13 of Michigan’s 34 shots in the first half en route to a 20-point outing.
Despite the high first-half numbers, Michigan coach John Beilein said he was content with how Matthews, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky, wasn’t afraid to look for his shot early on.
“Yeah, he took a couple tough ones,” Beilein said. “We want him to be aggressive now. We do want him to be aggressive. At the same time, he hasn’t been in these situations in college since high school.”
Matthews opened the game against North Florida with a mid-range turnaround jumper but proceeded to his miss his next five shots, including a near putback dunk and an alley-oop on a fast break that he tried to throw down with one hand instead of two.
He snapped out of the slump with a steal and layup, threw down an emphatic tip-in dunk off a missed 3-pointer and knocked down a jumper. Then after earning a brief stay on the bench after missing a pair of free throws, Matthews capped the first half with another jumper to lead the Wolverines with 10 points as they took a 32-30 lead at halftime.
“It’s a game of imperfection, you’re not going to make every shot,” Matthews said. “I’m going to continue to shoot those shots and hopefully the ball drops.
“I’m not here just to be the leading scorer in Michigan history. I score pretty well and that’s something I do pretty good, but I’m here to help this team win.”
While Beilein said a lot of people in Matthews’ position would be nervous logging major minutes for the first time in three years, Matthews appeared to settle down in the second half. He shot 4-for-6 from the floor, knocking down a 3-pointer and adding a layup during Michigan’s 21-2 run that turned a tight game into a blowout.
Beilein added the big key for Matthews is he’s starting to learn the difference between a good shot and bad shot, which could be a challenge for a player with his type of athleticism.
“We don’t want to take some of that creativity away from him,” Beilein said. “We watch a lot of video and I’ll tell him in front of the team that really is a shot you make every day in practice, this is not a shot you make every day in practice so until you make it every day in practice, you probably shouldn’t be shooting it in games.
“We try to get them to just feel like who they are and then as they grow their game in practice, their leash gets longer and longer. He’s been hitting that little turnaround jump shot against zones all the time and a couple times he makes plays more difficult than they there. You’re so acrobatic, just keep it simple.”
Saturday’s game didn’t provide much clarity at the point guard position.
Sophomore Zavier Simpson got the start and finished with nine assists, three points, three rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes. Freshman Eli Brooks added two points and a steal in 14 minutes and grad transfer Jaaron Simmons had two points and an assist in 10 minutes.
“The one thing I’m uncomfortable with right now is I’d like to have that into a two-man rotation pretty soon and that’s going to be hard to do,” Beilein said. “I think two will rise to the top and we can have a leader when he emerges.”
Beilein added he must get Simmons more minutes and Simpson is by far the best defensive point guard of the bunch.
… Beilein said he’d prefer two or three days between every game, but the Wolverines won’t get that luxury as they have a quick turnaround with a home game against Central Michigan tonight.
“It’s the only way we could do it and still make a trip to Maui and get these games in with the short and compressed schedule,” Beilein said. “(Central Michigan) is going to press the entire game and try to wear us out. The big thing right now is to rest and hope we’ve done enough work up to this point to do some of things that we can do to beat Central Michigan.”
Central Michigan at Michigan
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Monday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Records: Michigan 1-0, Central Michigan 1-0
Outlook: The Wolverines continue a stretch of three games in six days to open the season. Michigan is 21-3 all-time against Central Michigan, who has won two of the last five meetings (2007, 2002). … Sophomore G Kevin McKay (Warren De La Salle) led the Chippewas with 22 points in its 108-48 win over Siena Heights.