Michigan escapes Rutgers with 68-64 victory
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Just ask Michigan coach John Beilein, whose Wolverines beat Rutgers 68-64 on Wednesday.
“There was nothing pretty about that one at all, but sometimes those games that could be ugly are beautiful wins,” Beilein said. “They’re beautiful wins for our kids when it could have went south when we went down four.”
D.J. Wilson scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 14 points, Derrick Walton Jr. had 13 and Zak Irvin added 16 for Michigan (18-10, 8-7 Big Ten), which made 10 of 31 from behind the arc to Rutgers’ 6 of 16.
Corey Sanders scored 15 and Mike Williams had 14 for Rutgers (13-16, 2-14), which outscored Michigan 32-22 in the paint.
Down by as many as 10 in the second half, Rutgers took its first lead since 4-3 after C.J. Gettys’ jumper gave the Scarlet Knights a 52-51 lead at 7:58. But Wilson’s 3 with 5:50 to go put Michigan back on top 57-56 and the Wolverines never looked back.
The Wolverines outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 40-33, but Rutgers scored 15 points off 11 Michigan turnovers.
“We just didn’t do a great job of keeping our foot on the gas,” Walton Jr. said, adding, “All the difference was not being as aggressive as we were early in the game in transition, and like I said early in the season, that’s when this team is at its best, when we get out and run.”
For Rutgers, it is once again a competitive effort that resulted in a close game, but not a victory.
“It’s frustrating knowing that we’re right there every game and a lot of times we do have the lead and we’ve gone back and forth and end up giving up the lead and losing a close game,” Nigel Johnson said. “It’s frustrating, but we also try to look at it as a learning experience so we keep learning from it and eventually pull one of these out.”
NO MORE ROAD TRIPPIN’
Michigan has struggled on the road this season. The Wolverines entered the game 1-7 on the road on the season as they improved to 9-0 against Rutgers.
Beilein earned his 500th victory as a Division I basketball coach.
“I did not know it was,” Beilein said when asked about the accomplishment. “I didn’t know if I’d be a Division I coach ever. When I didn’t get the Colgate job a long time ago I said, `This is it. That was my only shot.’ So I’m really pleased that it worked out.”
Prior to Michigan, Beilein was the coach as Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.
Michigan struggled from the free throw line, shooting 60.9 percent for the game.
“Honestly I think we’re thinking too much about it,” Walton Jr. said. “Myself personally, I know for a fact some other guys that you want to make them so bad that you press it rather than just shoot it and let it be what it is.”
Michigan: After an overtime loss to Minnesota on Sunday, the Wolverines kept their NCAA bubble from bursting. For a team that hosts No. 14 Purdue before closing out the season on the road, where they have struggled, it was a critical win.
Rutgers: The Big Ten struggles continue for Rutgers. However, on the bright side, the Scarlet Knights at least remain competitive. After losing 15 of 17 conference games by double-digits last year, Rutgers has lost nine of the last 13 by single digits.
Michigan: Host No. 14 Purdue on Saturday.
Rutgers: Host No. 24 Maryland on Tuesday.