Michigan got off to a great start, maintained a comfortable lead throughout, and moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a win over Rutgers. Michigan’s offense got back on track with 1.17 points per possession, and the Wolverines shot 11-23 from behind the arc. Ignas Brazdeikis was matched up head-to-head against Rutgers’s best player, Eugene Omoruyi, and scored an efficient, game-high 23 points. Rutgers didn’t quit after falling down big in the first half, but they seemed to be a possession or two away from getting back in the game at a handful of points in the second half.
On the first possession of the game, Rutgers posted up Omoruyi on Iggy — and Iggy forced an airball on a hook (one of several airballed hooks from the Scarlet Knights); on Michigan’s first possession, Rutgers blew a switch on an Iggy ball screen and he got the three to roll in. Iggy scored on three of Michigan’s first four trips down the floor, then the Wolverines went on a 19-4 run over about seven minutes to build a huge lead midway through the half with dominant play on both ends of the floor. While there were some bright moments for Omoruyi and Myles Johnson in the first half for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights often forced tough shots — particularly as they fell behind.
The decisive run started with an and-one bucket from Jon Teske off a pick and roll with Zavier Simpson, and Simpson found Jordan Poole with a beautiful outlet pass for a transition dunk. Poole knocked down a three. Charles Matthews had a fantastic stretch: he hit both free throws after getting fouled on a baseline out of bounds play, and then he drilled a wing three, had an impressive help side block on Geo Baker, and made one of his baseline fades out of a post-up on consecutive plays, prompting a Rutgers timeout. Shortly after that, Simpson got one of his running sky hooks to fall from a difficult angle over a decent contest late in the shot clock.
Another Simpson layup with 4:17 left in the first half pushed Michigan’s lead back to 17, but Rutgers responded: a quick 8-0 run with a Peter Kiss three, a Montez Mathis layup off a Simpson turnover, and a step-back Geo Baker three over Jon Teske — his only made shot of the game — kept Rutgers from getting run out of the building. Baker, Rutgers’s leading scorer and main source of their offense, had a rough night with Simpson as his primary defender; Simpson posted a 14-7-7 stat line and controlled the game as the maestro of the Michigan offense.
The outcome of the head-to-head matchup between Iggy and Omoruyi was less decisive, though Michigan’s star freshman outplayed his former prep school teammate (and got the victory). Rutgers fed Omoruyi when he was isolated on the block, and while Iggy often defended the burly forward well — denying the ball, forcing catches far from the hoop, and walling up to alter several shots — Omoruyi still finished with 21 points (though it took him 20 shot equivalents to get there). On the other end, Iggy’s three-point shooting was excellent (5-9), and Michigan looked to him on effective pick-and-pop action with Simpson as the ball-handler. Iggy’s 23 points came on just 15 shot equivalents.
Both teams missed plenty of shots to open the second half, but a nice sequence from Rutgers’s freshman wing Montez Mathis — who assisted on an Omoruyi layup, made a three, and found Shaquille Doorson for a dunk off a slipped screen on consecutive trips down the floor — cut Michigan’s lead to seven with 15 minutes left to go. Teske missed a three, but Rutgers turned it over on a clumsy post possession, Simpson made both free throws after getting fouled in transition, and Iggy hit an open three to push the lead back to 12. The margin oscillated between about 8 and 12 for the rest of the game. Rutgers had the ball down eight a few times down the stretch, but those trips ended with bad plays from Baker.
After its worst performance of the season, Michigan played well and won on the road against a tough — if not particularly skilled — opponent. Iggy was an essential player on both ends: he shot the ball well, attacked when given opportunities without forcing shots, and gave a strong defensive effort against Omoruyi. While it wasn’t a great defensive performance overall against a mediocre offense, the Wolverines shot well from three-point range for the first time in about a month and that was more than enough. Michigan seeks to avenge its first loss against Wisconsin on Saturday.
[Box score after the JUMP]