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Old 03-02-2018, 03:31 AM
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Default (15)Michigan 77 Iowa 71
NEW YORK -- Wolverine guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had just fouled out against Iowa with 2:33 remaining in overtime with the score tied and the University of Michigan men's basketball team trying to find a way to put away a pesky Iowa team.

Abdur-Rahkman has been a dynamo of late, averaging 17.4 points in the last five games, while also playing stellar defense and ranking second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio.

But the Wolverines were going to have to win this one without him at crunch time.

He had a long walk to the bench, but Charles Matthews met Abdur-Rahkman before he reached the sideline and put his arm around "Rahk's" shoulder.

"I told him how much he had done for this team," said Matthews, who had a game-high 16 points with eight rebounds. "So, I said, 'Hold your head high and we're going to make sure we come out of this with a win.'"

When asked about that message from Matthews after Thursday's (March 1) 77-71 victory, Abdur-Rahkman smiled.

"That meant a lot," he said. "It shows how much of a close-knit group we are and how much we all lean on each other and believe in each other. It's great to have that on a team -- especially when you want to make long runs in March."

Matthews came up big on the game's biggest stage, Madison Square Garden, and did so with more than statistics. He also showed he is evolving as a leader.

"It was a huge game for Charles," said Wolverines head coach John Beilein. "Knowing he had (so many players) in foul trouble, just to step forward and do what he can. Unbelievable.

"First of all, he wasn't afraid to shoot the ball when we needed a big basket. He took the ball to the hoop really strong tonight, and he still doesn't use his explosiveness like he should. I think he should dunk more of those plays that he's trying to lay up."

Matthews had some high-scoring games early -- posting 28 against LSU in Maui -- but averaged just 9.6 points in Big Ten games, where he made only 29 percent of his three-point attempts.

He was disappearing from the offense in the last six games, averaging only 7.1 points and having zero, five and six points on his final tallies.

But the sophomore transfer from Kentucky was back into the flow of the offense against Iowa, and was a difference-maker.

"I was trying to do everything I can to help my team win," said Matthews. "I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to end (the tournament) with a loss."

He beamed when asked about the opportunity to play in one of the game's most storied arenas, a place called "The Mecca," where Willis Reed inspired the New York Knicks to an NBA championship and so many great games have been played.

"Playing here is second to none," said Matthews. "This is every childhood dream, to be able to say that they played in the Garden. And especially, like Duncan (Robinson) said, having a great group of guys, wouldn't rather have done this with anybody else."

Robinson, Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske also made huge contributions to help the No. 15 Wolverines (25-7) find a way to win. And that was really what this game was all about -- finding a route to victory when the normal horses were not going to pull the victory wagon.

image 3Michigan head coach John Beilein said Thursday's game vs. Iowa was a huge one for Charles Matthews as he took big shots when the team needed a basket and drove to the basket strong.

Moritz Wagner, the front-line force for the Wolverines, had fouled out with more than four minutes remaining in regulation. Things were not looking good for Michigan in its quest for a second consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship.

But guess what?

Teske stepped up to grab nine rebounds -- including an amazing four defensive boards in the final two minutes of overtime to choke off the scoring hopes of the Hawkeyes -- and also blocked two shots in the last two minutes of regulation.

The 7-foot-1 sophomore center said, "I'm capable of doing that and just going up and getting those boards for the team. We did a great job on defense today by forcing tough twos and having them miss shots. Then it's my job to go to the glass."

Beilein said of Teske, "He's growing. We want him to grow a little faster, but he has a very quiet personality and he can't bring that persona to the court. But his nine rebounds were big today and he gave us some second chances. He could evolve into a really good player. We've just got to continue to press him to become more aggressive and stronger."

Robinson was the only Wolverine to make a three-pointer, and they had missed their first 12 shots from behind the arc before he swished one from the right corner with 9:32 remaining in regulation. He made another less than two minutes later and another that gave Michigan the lead for good with 2:17 left in overtime.

"(Simpson) made a really good pass," Robinson said of the ice-breaking trey, "and I was able to knock it in, and that kind of got the wheels rolling."

He finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals. And, if you want a crazy stat, how's this: Michigan is 21-0 if Robinson scores at least six points.

"We need Duncan, Muhammad and Moe out on the floor," said Beilein, "and Duncan was really the only one who could stay out on the floor today."

There is a silver lining to the Wolverines surviving and advancing with Wagner (11 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes) and Abdur-Rahkman (nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes) playing 14.6 and 12.6 minutes less than their average court time, respectively. Their legs should be a little fresher for the next game.

Their teammates pulled it out so they could all play another day in the Garden.

"I'm very proud and grateful of what those guys did today," said Wagner. "We found a way, but if we missed one more free throw, we would've been saying, 'We could've found a way.' We couldn't hit a house with our shots today. We needed a veteran to step up, and Duncan did a great job. He hit some shots."

Simpson also had a good game offensively with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. But the sophomore point guard had a monster game on defense. Jordan Bohannon had carried Iowa to an opening game win over Illinois with 25 points (5-of-7 on treys). But Bohannon was 3-for-11 from behind the arc against Simpson and finished with 11 points.

I have a sneaking suspicion that when Bohannon walked down the street to the team bus, he checked to see if Simpson had that route blocked, too.

"Zavier Simpson did an incredible job on Bohannon," said Beilein. "Again, just a wonderful job. Just a lot of energy to get that done."

Beilein noted that this offensive struggle (3-for-19 on treys and 18-of-32 from the free throw line) of a game was won by his team's defense, and Simpson was at the heart of that success.

"I'm proud of you," Beilein told his team in the postgame locker room. "As bad as our offense looked at times, with that defense -- in overtime they were 1-for-9 (on field goal attempts) -- we still won.

"We have a great team, and we push through even our toughest days."

The Wolverines found a way to move onto a quarterfinal game against Nebraska on Friday afternoon (March 2).

"This time of the season," said Matthews, "it's all about who has the most will. Everything's not going to be pretty, but we played hard to the end and now we're advancing.

"We escaped, and I'll take a win any way we can get it."

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Old 03-02-2018, 08:37 AM
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Old 03-02-2018, 08:52 AM
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