Many storylines surrounded Sunday’s matchup against No. 21 Indiana.
Would Michigan show any rust after a month of underwhelming basketball against inferior competition? Could the offense execute a complete game versus a top-25 efficiency defense?
Also, how was former five-star Charles Matthews going to deal with future lottery pick Romeo Langford?
The Wolverines answered, controlling the Hoosiers wire-to-wire in a 74-63 victory. They delivered several Top Plays in the process.
Charles Matthews sets the tone early versus Romeo Langford
Charles Matthews was on a mission.
According to NBADraft.net, he projects as a mid-second round pick. His assignment Sunday was Langford, a top-10 player in last year’s class seemingly destined for the NBA lottery.
The senior changed the narrative with a stellar first half against the freshman. He connected on two treys, boosting his three-point percentage to 34.7 percent. He dunked off a baseline drive, drawing Langford’s second foul.
He then showed off his bread and butter: defense. Watch his rotations at the 0:27 mark, flying across the court to eventually intercept a pass for an easy layup. He then proceeded to force Langford into several wild drives.
His final stat line: 18 points on 15 shots, six boards and four steals.
Langford eventually found his footing, scoring 17 points. However, the early dominance set the tone. After Matthews drained his second three, Michigan was up 30-13 and poised for complete destruction.
Jordan Poole toys with Zach McRoberts
You are something special, @umichbball's Jordan Poole. pic.twitter.com/sDW9is0pgn— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) January 6, 2019
Poole tied Matthews for the team lead in points, but he found his way there in style.
Against Hoosier senior Zach McRoberts, he scored two of his 18 points with a variety of moves that linked together. A crossover opened up a baseline drive, which continued with a spin in the lane, eventually ending with a reverse layup.
Later in the second half, he befuddled McRoberts with a ankle-breaking crossover, which culminated in a jumper to put the Wolverines up 14 with less than six minutes remaining.
OH MY JORDAN POOLE. JP has the whole Indiana team on skates 〽️ pic.twitter.com/TDaHac9vmz— Wolverine Corner (@WolverineCorner) January 6, 2019
Aesthetically, the second play is a beauty. Practically, it slapped away another chance for Indiana to close the deficit.
Zavier Abdul Jabbar Simpson
Zavier Simpson running hook shot. He's listed at 6'0" pic.twitter.com/J5VQr8BvDr— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) January 6, 2019
Zavier Simpson’s hook shot is becoming incredibly consistent.
Against the Hoosiers, he sank three of his five field goals with it, reaching 12 points on the afternoon. It drew effusive praise from CBS’s Clark Kellogg, noting he hasn’t seen someone of the junior point guard’s frame execute it on a consistent basis.
Beyond the novelty, it also helped Michigan keep Indiana at bay in the second half. The Hoosiers tightened the lead to seven due to foul trouble in the Wolverine front court — more on that in a second — and every basket helped.
I talked with Bob Frantz of 106.5 The Ticket in Toledo last month, and he wanted to know why Simpson — who once scored 65 points for Lima High School in Ohio — wasn’t clicking in John Beilein’s offense.
It’s possible Beilein has been so used to winning at the point with a guy who can hit a jumper. He’s finding out that he can win with Simpson impersonating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Brandon Johns finally emerges
Michigan’s big men were faltering against Juwan Morgan.
Jon Teske and Austin Davis both racked up four fouls trying to stop the Hoosier forward, who finished with 25 points and eight rebounds.
After Davis hacked him to lead to an old-fashioned three-point play, Beilein was forced to insert freshman Brandon Johns in the biggest moment of his young college career. The score was back to single-digits for the first time since the opening minutes.
The freshman literally and figuratively rose to the occasion.
Attack this day like Brandon Johns attacked the rim against Indiana: pic.twitter.com/BnQGPlfmKb— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) January 7, 2019
He rolled to the basket for a slam for his first points of the half to push the lead to 57-46. He later scored on two straight possessions — the first on a tip shot and the later on the dunk linked above.
Those plays, plus Poole’s devastating crossover, put the kibosh on the Hoosier comeback. Johns chipped in eight points and eight boards total.
He now looks like a viable option off the bench, deepening Michigan’s rotation for conference play.