In 'a rhythm,' Michigan thunders past Maryland
College Park, Md.— Michigan rained all over Maryland’s parade in the first half and never looked back.
The Wolverines used a 3-point barrage, another sound defensive effort and a career day from senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to dismantle the Terrapins, 85-61, in the regular-season finale Saturday at Xfinity Center.
Abdur-Rahkman scored a career-high 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists to lead the charge for No. 17 Michigan (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten), which tied a season-high with 15 made 3-pointers and has won five straight heading into the postseason.
Abdur-Rahkman, who was wearing rec specs after getting poked in the eye at shootaround prior to Wednesday’s game at Penn State, bested his previous career high of 26 points set in the loss at Purdue on Jan. 25.
Freshman Jordan Poole added 12 points, Charles Matthews scored 11 — all in the second half — and Zavier Simpson 10 for the Wolverines, who shot a scorching 60.7 percent (17-for-28) from the field and 57.9 percent (11-for-19) from 3-point range in the first half.
“I think that we were very fortunate that we are in a little bit of a rhythm right now,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Our guys are shooting the ball really well and we are a tough guard for a lot of teams when all five guys are shooting it in.
“Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is this guy that as the year went on, we began to realize as a staff that he could do so much more than we were allowing him to do. He is not disappointing us.”
After Michigan got off to a sloppy start with three turnovers in its first four possessions, it quickly cleaned up its play and put on a clinic in what turned out to be arguably the team’s best first half — both offensively and defensively — all season.
It all began when Abdur-Rahkman made consecutive 3-pointers to start a stretch where the Wolverines made 10 of 12 shots. The span included a 9-0 run that featured a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer and back-to-back layups by Jaaron Simmons to get Michigan rolling, 20-12, at the 11:21 mark.
“Muhammad is definitely in his bag,” Poole said. “Being able to come out here with his new little eye wear and have 28 (points) was definitely big time. He had a lot of big shots early, set the tempo for us and gave us a lot of momentum.”
Michigan continued to ride that momentum during an overwhelming 28-6 run over the final 9:12 to quickly turn the game into a laugher and coast into halftime with a commanding 54-24 lead.
Poole and Abdur-Rahkman provided the heavy lifting during the flurry that brought out the boos early and featured plenty of wide-open looks from beyond the arc.
Poole scored nine points on two 3-pointers and three free throws, while Abdur-Rahkman scored 13 on two free throws, a layup and three more 3-pointers, the last coming with two seconds left as the lead swelled to 30 at the break.
“We wanted to come out aggressive and put them on their heels right away,” said Abdur-Rahkman, who shot 10-for-21 from the field and 6-for-13 on 3-pointers. “They had a lead in the beginning, but we didn't let that bother us and we just tried to push out.
“I used to live in D.C. so anytime I come back here and play here I always try to play well. Friends come up and come see me and I just want to play well, especially it being the last game of the regular season.”
After Michigan grabbed its largest lead at 56-24 early in the second half on a Matthews layup, the Wolverines missed five of their first six shots and Maryland used an 8-0 run to trim the deficit to 57-35 with 15:09 remaining.
Robinson restored order with Michigan’s 12th 3-pointer and Moritz Wagner threw down a dunk to push the lead back to 62-35 with 13:58 left.
Maryland managed to cut the deficit below 20 just once before Abdur-Rahkman scored on a layup at the 5:17 mark to set his new career high. The Wolverines led by at least 20 the rest of the way.
With the win, Michigan can land the No. 4 seed and final double-bye in next week’s Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden with a Nebraska loss to Penn State on Sunday. If Nebraska wins, Michigan will be the No. 5 seed.
Anthony Cowan Jr. finished with 17 points, and Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando each scored 12 apiece for Maryland (19-12, 8-10), which tied its season low with 61 points.
“I'm going to take all the blame today because we were terrible and obviously it starts with me,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We just made a lot of mistakes. We would run at guys we’re not supposed to be running at. Our key was guard the ball and we didn’t guard anybody in the first half.”