Michigan basketball takes care of Rutgers ahead of top-5 showdown
ANN ARBOR — A rough start and a shaky finish for Michigan netted a familiar result: a comfortable victory. Michigan returned to Crisler Center for the first time in …
Michigan basketball takes care of Rutgers ahead of top-5 showdown – mlive.com
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ANN ARBOR — A rough start and a shaky finish for Michigan netted a familiar result: a comfortable victory. Michigan returned to Crisler Center for the first time in 30 days on Thursday and beat Rutgers 71-64.
No. 3 Michigan will visit No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday afternoon.
If the Wolverines (15-1, 10-1) were peeking ahead to that matchup, it didn’t show for much of the night. They used an 8-0 run early in the second half to go up 15. Rutgers didn’t get closer than 11 until the final two minutes, with the game never truly in doubt down the stretch.
Franz Wagner led all scorers with 20 points, while adding seven rebounds and three assists on several nice drive-and-dish plays.
Michigan improved to 14-0 all-time against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights visited Crisler Center having won five of six but struggled to crack Michigan’s stout defense.
Michigan held Rutgers to 3-of-12 from 3-point range and 40 percent from the field.
At the other end of the floor, Michigan had three turnovers by the first media timeout but settled in and finished with just 11 turnovers. (Rutgers had only three in a clean, if somewhat grinding game.) Hunter Dickinson tallied 10 points and eight rebounds while Mike Smith scored 12. Isaiah Livers’ hot streak came to an end, as he was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
For Michigan, the game was bookended by offensive struggles. Giveaways were the problem early, as Michigan fell behind by five. After finding a groove to go up 17, Michigan made just one basket over nearly 11 minutes late.
Myles Johnson’s (13 points) effectiveness near the basket for Rutgers made Michigan work to close it out. Rutgers fell to 12-8 (8-8).
Michigan had five games postponed in recent weeks before returning Sunday at Wisconsin, hence the long break between home games. The Wolverines haven’t faced any of the Big Ten’s top contenders yet, but that will change on Sunday. The Buckeyes beat Penn State on Thursday 90-80 to improve to 12-4 in the conference.
It looked like Michigan might coast into that top-five showdown. Smith’s baseline jumper put Michigan ahead 17 with 11:52 left. But the Wolverines went the next 5.5 minutes without scoring, as Rutgers cut the deficit to 12. Smith’s drive and scoop with 5:08 left finally broke Michigan’s field goal drought and made it 59-45.
Rutgers cut the margin to eight three different times. Michigan would have had yet another double-digit victory if not for Jacob Young’s 3 on Rutgers’ final possession. Young finished with a team-high 16 points.
The game started with a rarity — a held ball after the jump ball, which required a second opening tip.
Michigan was disjointed offensively early, while Rutgers connected on midrange shots to grab an early advantage.
Smith and Brandon Johns Jr. connected on consecutive 3s from opposite corners, capping a 13-2 run that put Michigan ahead 22-15 with 8:39 left.
Geo Baker, challenged at the rim by Livers, missed a dunk, but it led to a Ron Harper Jr. 3, his first make in 23 attempts, that cut the deficit to four.
Wagner’s 3 pushed it back to seven, 31-24, with 3:55 left in the half. His from-behind-the-backboard floater just before half gave him nine points and made it 37-28 Michigan at the break.
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