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Michigan stays undefeated with 71-50 grounding of Air Force

Ignas Brazdeikis led all scorers with 19 points, and both offense and defense provided highlights.

NCAA Basketball: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR – Michigan stayed undefeated Saturday with a 71-50 victory over visiting Air Force.

Ignas Brazdeikis led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Charles Matthews added 17, while Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers both reached double figures with 11.

The offense needed to work off some rust early, so the Wolverines (12-0) leaned on its top-five defense.

The Falcons (4-7) built a 10-5 lead in the opening minutes after Michigan started 1-for-8 from behind the arc. Zavier Simpson and company intercepted several backdoor cuts en route to 11 forced turnovers in the half, sparking an extended 19-3 run.

In total, Air Force turned it over 20 times.

“We guarded probably 150 of those (backcuts) today,” Beilein said, citing the previous effort against a similar style in Holy Cross. “We guarded about 500 this last week in practice.”

In addition, all Wolverines joined the block party. Outside of Teske’s two swats, Eli Brooks tracked one down from behind, and Charles Matthews made the highlight reel with one off a fast break.

Eli Brooks turned in a great shift to keep the offense afloat. He scored six points and dished two of his four assists in the first frame in Zavier Simpson’s place.

Beilein said he inserted Brooks after seeing Simpson clang a three off the iron.

“(Zavier) wasn’t going to have a lot of confidence (with his shot), and Eli gave us a great spark,” Beilein said. “Eli started last year because our flow was better offensively. He really understands defense off the ball, he directs people and he’s always in the right position.”

Michigan shot just 39 percent from the field by the break, but heated up in the second with a 17-for-32 showing. Matthews opened with two midrange jumpers, then Jordan Poole drained a three from the top of the key.

“They came out with a matchup zone,” Beilein said. “We had seen the 3-2 zone, but to me it didn’t look like that. It probably was the same thing and I didn’t realize it.”

After the slow start from three, he praised his shooters for keeping at it, citing the close to 40 percent shooting from deep the rest of the way.

The Wolverines started shaking loose when Brazdeikis swiped the ball near midcourt and emphatically finishing in transition, bolstering the lead to 39-28.

Livers and Brazdeikis later traded threes to boost the margin to 52-37 at the 10:25 mark. Michigan cruised from there until the final whistle, entertaining the crowd in the process.

Overall, the Wolverines scored 1.11 points per possession. The defense held the Falcons to .78 — the 11th time this season an opponent failed to score over a point per.

Michigan will look to finish the non-conference undefeated next Sunday with a home tilt against Binghamton (noon ET, BTN).