The Michigan Wolverines moved to 15-1 (10-1 in Big Ten play) on Thursday evening with a 71-64 victory over visiting Rutgers. For the second game in a row, it was not always pretty. Nobody in that building will apologize for the victory, though.
Michigan’s 10-1 start in conference games is its best start in Big Ten action since the 1977 season.
This was one of Franz Wagner’s best nights as a Wolverine, at least this season. He finished the night with 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Mike Smith was the next-highest scorer with 12 points, while Hunter Dickinson had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Rutgers is always going to be a team that comes in and plays hard and Thursday night was no exception. Michigan went down early by a score of 11-6, but Michigan roared back and took a nine-point lead into the locker room at 37-28.
The Wolverines held a 17-point lead at one point in the game, but the Scarlet Knights were able to keep things relatively close down the stretch. That was helped by the fact that Michigan did not score for nearly six minutes in the second half, which helped Rutgers pull into single-digits in the final minutes of the game.
This was a commendable effort by Michigan despite some flaws throughout. Coming off of an emotional win on Sunday after a long layoff, there were concerns that this could be a trap game. Wagner was outstanding in this one and filled the stat sheet, while Isaiah Livers did a ton (7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) without his normal offensive output.
Also of note were the efforts of Chaundee Brown, Brandon Johns and Austin Davis. They provided good energy when it was needed and finished the game combining for all of Michigan’s 18 points off the bench.
That was a workman-like victory that was never as close as the final score indicated while also putting some things on film for Michigan to work through in the next few days. One hopes that some of the things that have plagued them in the two games since returning can get ironed out before a big-time measuring stick this weekend.
Next up for Michigan is a showdown with No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday afternoon in Columbus in their biggest test of this season to this point. That game is set for a 1 p.m. ET tipoff and will be broadcast nationally via CBS.