Michigan coach talks about his team’s dominant start that it rode to a convincing 69-46 win at Assembly Hall on Friday night.
James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Bloomington, Ind. — History has never favored Michigan in the unfriendly confines of Assembly Hall.
On Friday night, though, the Wolverines couldn’t have gotten off to a more favorable start.
No. 5 Michigan dominated the first five minutes, jumped out to a 20-2 lead over Indiana and never looked back in a 69-46, wire-to-wire victory to sweep the regular-season series.
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis scored 20 to lead a balanced effort for Michigan (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten), which won consecutive road games at Indiana for the first time since 1985-86.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, junior guard Zavier Simpson added 12 points and junior center Jon Teske scored 11 as the Wolverines shook off a pair of sluggish offensive performances against Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I don’t think anybody realizes, as a coach, you envy that situation where you get off to that great start and how difficult it is to manage because no matter what happens in the game, if you ever lose that game it’s nothing to be up that much that early. Nothing,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “To manage it and have your kids persevere is really good. … Our defense was so solid the entire night.”
After Michigan’s dominant start, Indiana began to find some footing on offense. The Hoosiers connected on five straight baskets — the buzz building with each make — to cut the deficit to 38-29 with 16:47 to go.
It quickly died down. Brazdeikis answered with a silencing corner 3-pointer and Matthews scored seven straight for the Wolverines on two free throws, a straightaway 3-pointer and mid-range pull-up to jump-start a 15-5 run.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers ended the spurt with a 3-pointer to give Michigan a commanding 53-34 advantage at the 10:49 mark.
“It’s a game full of runs,” Simpson said. “It’s not about the runs, it’s about how you bounce back from it. We bounced back from it good and I’m proud of my team for that. We’ve got to not try to put them in that position because that can change the whole game, too, if we allow teams to do that.”
The Hoosiers mustered one last-gasp push to cut the deficit to 14 but the Wolverines shoved right back with six straight points to take their largest lead, 62-41, and send fans trickling toward the exits with 5:21 remaining.
Juwan Morgan finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds and star freshman Romeo Langford had nine points on 3-for-12 shooting for Indiana (12-8, 3-6), which has lost six straight overall and six straight in the series.
The Hoosiers’ 16 made field goals, 27.6 percent shooting (16-for-58) and 46 total points were all season lows.
“(Michigan) came in here and did what they want, when they wanted, how they wanted, and that’s really disappointing,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “Our team in general right now is soft, and we’re also for whatever reason right now scared, and you can just tell by the way that we played.
“If you look at our defensive numbers it wasn’t a terribly statistically poorly played defensive game, it’s just an inept offense. I mean, you can’t get down 20-2 at home against Michigan or anybody for that matter.”
Michigan punched Indiana in the mouth right out the gate, scoring the first 17 points by getting looks out on the perimeter and at the rim with relative ease off its ball-screen action.
Simpson was the catalyst throughout the hot start, scoring on two driving layups and dishing out three assists that led to open 3-pointers for Brazdeikis and sophomore guard Jordan Poole and an easy dunk for Teske.
It all unfolded over the first five minutes as Michigan drained seven of its first eight shots to bring the boos out in full force from the Indiana faithful.
“We just locked in,” Simpson said. “Seeing that (17-0 start), we fed off that. We became more hungry once we seen that. We wanted to increase the lead and at the same time get stops. At the end of the day, they have a really good team and we would be not very intelligent to believe they’re not going to score sooner or later.”
The Hoosiers finally broke through for their first points at the 12:57 mark when Aljami Durham made two free throws and the crowd sarcastically erupted in applause.
But even with Michigan’s offense cooling off significantly and only making six shots the rest of the half, Indiana was a mess and couldn’t get anything going over the first 10 minutes.
It also didn’t help that much like the first meeting on Jan. 6, Langford was saddled with early foul trouble and picked up his third whistle on a three-point play by Brazdeikis that put Michigan up 20-2 at the 11:02 mark.
Indiana eventually made its first field goal with 10:15 left in the half — after it missed its first 10 shots and committed four turnovers — and made its first 3-pointer at the 5:44 mark.
By the time halftime arrived, Indiana had more turnovers (six) and missed free throws (7-for-13) than made field goals (5-for-25), and Michigan held a 33-18 advantage that would only slip below double digits once the rest of the way.
“We were so mentally prepared for this game,” Brazdeikis said. “We watched a lot of film on them and we knew exactly what we had to do defensively. And offensively none of us were shying away from shots. asd
“We were really confident in ourselves and came in ready to go.”