Michigan fends off pesky Western Michigan 70-62 to stay unbeaten
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — No. 5 Michigan has breezed past the competition for much of the season, coasting to lopsided wins even against ranked opponents.
Western Michigan provided the Wolverines with a different kind of experience.
Charles Matthews made a layup just before halftime to give No. 5 Michigan its first lead, then matched a season high with 25 points and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds to help undefeated Michigan beat the Broncos 70-62 on Saturday.
“We needed to get through something like that,” coach John Beilein said. “When things aren’t going well and you’re about to get upset, you need resiliency.”
Michigan (11-0) is off to its best start since it was 16-0 six seasons ago. Before getting a relative scare from Western Michigan, the Wolverines had beaten teams by an average of 18-plus points.
The Broncos (5-5) were in control for much of the first half and led by eight points with 2:58 remaining after Michael Flowers scored 11 of his career-high 31 points in just over two minutes.
“Flowers is tremendous,” Beilein said. “He kept them in the game.”
Matthews helped Michigan bounce back from a sluggish start. He scored eight of his team’s 10 points to close the first half, giving Michigan a 30-28 lead.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Matthews said.
He scored five more points during the Wolverines’ 14-2 run early in the second half, giving them a cushion they needed because the Broncos stayed aggressive on both ends
Matthews made a 3-pointer with 1:13 left to put the Wolverines ahead by eight.
Michigan’s Zavier Simpson scored 15 points and Jordan Poole had 14, making up for Ignas Brazdeikis and Jon Teske combining to score just seven points.
“It shows how dynamic we are,” Poole said.
Jared Printy had 10 points for the Broncos, whose top two scorers were held well below their average. Seth Dugan had seven points, more than 10 points below his average, and Josh Davis fouled out with four points after entering the game scoring nearly 14 points per game.
DOWN TO EARTH
Michigan’s leading scorer, Brazdeikis, was held scoreless for more than 24 minutes. The freshman finished a season-low four points — 13 below his average.
“He wasn’t sharp,” Beilein said. “He’ll be back and ready to roll.”
Michigan scored 20 points off the Broncos’ 16 turnovers while Western Michigan had eight points off the Wolverines’ eight turnovers.
HE SAID IT
Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins was asked if Flowers, who is from suburban Detroit, played the Wolverines with a chip on his shoulder.
“He wakes up with a chip. That’s kind of him,” Hawkins said.
Simpson made 3 of 4 3-pointers after missing all 10 of his attempts beyond the arc over the previous six games and connecting on just 22 percent of his 3-point shots this season and 27 percent over his three-season career.
Beilein wants the point guard to shoot from the outside when teams are sagging off him.
“Or, we’re playing four on five,” Beilein said.
Western Michigan: The Broncos, who hadn’t played a ranked team since 2016, may get a boost of confidence for leading Michigan for much of the first half and refusing to get routed when the Wolverines took control in the second half.
“Confidence? I hope so,” Hawkins said. “We’ll find out in about two or three months.”
Michigan: The Wolverines looked rusty in the first half and must learn how to stay sharp with only one game per week from Dec. 8 to Dec. 30 before resuming conference play in early January.
“You’re not going to win games in the Big Ten if you play like that,” Beilein said.
Western Michigan: Play at Dayton on Wednesday night.
Michigan: Hosts Air Force on Saturday.