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Top Plays: Michigan at Rutgers

After weeks of sub-par play, the Michigan offense thrived against a top-50 defense on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s offense needed last night.

1.17 points per possession against a top-50 defense on the road? That’s a big step towards climbing out of a weeks long slump.

That calls for an all-offense Top Plays segment from the 77-65 victory over Rutgers.

Offense explodes out the gate

In this week’s Stat Watch, I talked about the factors that led to the offensive drought over the last five games.

Horrendous shooting. Scant opportunities at the free throw line. Few points in transition.

The Wolverines excelled at all three in the initial 27-10 run to open the game.

Ignas Brazdeikis got the ball rolling on an excellent day from three. Overall, Michigan connected on 11-of-23 from behind the arc — good for 47.8 percent.

One of those triples came in transition, and in addition to Zavier Simpson’s outlet pass to Jordan Poole, accounted for five of Michigan’s eight fast-break points.

Lastly, both Jon Teske and Brazdeikis converted from the line in the opening minutes. The visitors hit 14-of-17 free throws on the night, nearly 20 percentage points more than their season average.

Obligatory Zavier Simpson Hook Shot(s)

It’s probably getting old for Michigan fans. The novelty now is watching opposing media/fans react to them.

He managed to hit two in the game. The second one reasserted a double-digit lead in the second half.

Crisp passing and execution in first half

The opening surge by the Wolverines got the offense into a comfort zone. Nearing the end of the first half, the intricate cuts and passing clicked in a way it hasn’t for weeks.

While Simpson (seven assists) facilitated at his normal rate, the whole team distributed well. 14 of Michigan’s 26 field goals were assisted, as Charles Matthews (four), Eli Brooks (two) and Jordan Poole (one) all contributed.

Brazdeikis triples hold off Scarlet Knights

Rutgers made several pushes in the second half, cutting the Michigan lead to 10 or less eight different times.

Brazdeikis swatted away several comeback opportunities with timely triples.

Three times, he turned 10-point leads into 13-point ones. It capped off 23-point outing that led all scorers.

It also marked a return to his old, efficient self. He drained 8-of-14 shots, including 5-of-9 from deep.

This hasn’t been the case a few times recently. He needed 15 shots to reach 16 points against Iowa, and 18 shots to notch 18 points versus Minnesota.

On the other hand, the Canadian freshman has reached double-digits each time since the 0-fer against Wisconsin. He is trending upwards.

Happy Birthday, John Beilein

The Michigan head coach turned 66 Tuesday night. His birthday gift? Passing Johnny Orr for most Big Ten wins in school history (121).