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Ann Arbor — Charles Matthews was the best player on the floor Thursday night when Michigan took on winless Alabama A&M. The junior forward put up a career-high 31 points in the Wolverines’ 97-47 shellacking at Crisler Center.

Matthews hit his first six attempts from the floor, including two 3-pointers on his way to 22 first half points. His athleticism was on display as he took the ball to the rim in half court sets and finished on the break. Matthews finished 12-for-15 from the field.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 97, Alabama A&M 47

“I’m just trying to come out here and help my teammates win,” Matthews said. “Of course I’m confident in myself and my abilities, but I’m just coming out here to win the game.”

“He’s gaining more and more confidence,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of Matthews. “He’s starting to understand how this all works and choosing his spots more carefully. I thought he took 15 good shots.”

Michigan’s defense was disruptive and created plenty of opportunities for Matthews and his teammates in transition. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 25 times, leading to 29 points on the other end for the Wolverines.

That defensive pressure sparked a 14-0 run midway through the first half that gave Michigan (11-3) some separation and allowed them to build a comfortable 51-23 halftime advantage.

“I’m really pleased with the effort,” Beilein said. “Our defense continues to grow as we put a little more pressure on the ball and create turnovers. Our kids understand the byproduct is a fast break, and they love the fast break.”

Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were deadly from beyond the arc, combining for nine 3-pointers. Robinson scored 18, while Abdur-Rahkman finished with 14.

As a team, the Wolverines went 15-for-31 from long range.

“It was good offense and unselfish basketball,” Robinson said. “(Matthews) came out and set the tone. When he’s doing that, we’re hard to beat.”

Marcus Merriweather did his best to keep A&M (0-12) in the game early on. The senior guard scored his team’s first nine points and cut the Michigan lead to 10-9 five minutes in. But he cooled off after that and finished with 16.

The Wolverines will get one final non-conference tune-up against Jacksonville on Dec. 30 before jumping back into Big Ten play after the New Year.

Beilein not worried about Wagner

Junior center Moritz Wagner missed his second consecutive game with bone bruise in his right foot.

Belein was non-committal following the game about Wagner’s status for the team’s next game in nine days, but he did say the big man is progressing.

“I don’t want to put a timeline on it, but I’m not concerned about it,” Beilein said. “He had a huge weightlifting session today, just really blowing his body out.”

According to Beilein, Wagner will be returning to Germany for the holiday but understands the work he needs to put in to get back in game-shape.

“He understand he has to rest and get his cardio up,” Beilein said. “As soon as the pain is gone, we’ll know. The pain is diminishing every day.”

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.

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