Ann Arbor — If anyone is glad December is almost over, it’s probably Michigan.
The Wolverines’ month-long malaise continued Sunday with more lackluster play against more less-than-enticing competition.
And just like it did against some of its other foes this month, No. 2 Michigan needed a second-half spurt to distance itself from Binghamton for a 74-52 win in Sunday’s nonconference finale at Crisler Center.
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis finished with 21 points and helped key the late 19-4 run for Michigan (13-0, 2-0 Big Ten), which will resume Big Ten play with home games against Penn State and Indiana on Thursday and Sunday, respectively, next week.
Sophomore guard Jordan Poole added 18 points on a career-high six made 3-pointers and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers had 17 points.
Much like it did for large stretches against South Carolina, Western Michigan and Air Force, Michigan struggled to shake free from Binghamton.
The crux this time for the Wolverines was the middle of Binghamton’s zone defense, where plenty of Michigan’s mid-range shots failed to fall.
But even when it looked like Michigan was starting to get some breathing room after Poole splashed his sixth 3-pointer to make it 44-37 with 14:37 left, Binghamton made matters tense by pulling within 46-43 at the 11:49 mark.
That was until the Wolverines managed to ease the sellout crowd’s nerves by mustering a 19-4 spurt over a 6:54 stretch to pull ahead, 65-47, with 4:02 to play.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews started a stretch of 11 straight points with a baseline dunk that Livers ended with three straight baskets, including a 3-pointer, to make it 57-43 at the 6:31 mark.
Then after Chancellor Barnard converted a three-point play, Brazdeikis put a bow on the nonconference slate with back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup for the 18-point bulge.
Barnard finished with 14 points and Tyler Stewart scored 13 for Binghamton (4-10), which became the fifth straight opponent to shoot at least 40 percent (20-for-50) from the field.
Michigan made its first three shots — all from 3-point range — in the first 2:09 of the game to make it seem like Sunday was finally going to be a stress-free victory.
It didn’t unfold that way. The Wolverines couldn’t take advantage of the soft spot of Binghamton’s zone and settled too much, missing nine straight shots with seven coming inside the arc.
Poole finally snapped the shooting slump and a six-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer to put Michigan up, 12-11, with 11:50 left in the first half.
That started a stretch where Michigan finally started to knock down its open looks. The Wolverines made seven of nine shots over a five-minute span, including its first 2-point field goal on a baseline drive and dunk by Livers at the 11:00 mark, to open a 25-18 lead with 6:56 left in the half.
However, another string of clanked shots by Michigan allowed Binghamton to hang around and pull within two twice in the final 3:19 before the Wolverines entered halftime with a 33-27 lead.