Michigan 78, UCLA 69 (OT)

Submitted by Ace on December 9th, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Today's unlikely heroes. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

"I've coached more college games than any of you," John Beilein said to the assembled media. "I've never seen anything like this."

Rarely has a game, and quite possibly a season, turned so dramatically in so little time.

Facing UCLA in a matchup of paramount importance to their NCAA tournament resumé, Michigan allowed the same problems that have plagued this team all year to appear at seemingly the worst time. Despite open looks, they couldn't buy a three, opening the game 4-for-19 from beyond the arc. UCLA's Aaron Holiday got whatever he wanted against Michigan's point guards; ditto Thomas Welsh going to work inside against M's centers.

The Bruins took a three-point lead into halftime, and the lead easily could've been larger if not for some sloppy play on their part. That luck didn't last. UCLA's margin ballooned to 15 when Holiday drilled a three right out of the first media timeout of the second half. Then Charles Matthews, who'd had a quiet first half and opened the second with a traveling violation, started cooking. Every possession went through him, and for good reason; by the next media timeout, Matthews had ten more points and a Kobe assist, almost singlehandedly cutting the defecit to seven.

Charles Matthews went off in the game's final 20 minutes. [Campredon]

Matthews would've been even more productive in that stretch, and throughout the game, if not for major struggled at the free-throw line that extended to the rest of the team. Michigan would finish 8-for-22 from the charity stripe; Matthews posted a brutal 2-for-10 mark. As such, he couldn't bring the team back on his own. A pair of unlikely players picked him up.

"Eli [Brooks] saved the game for us," said Matthews. "I was so glad he made those free throws. I was going to hear about that for weeks to come. They're tough, especially that little dude over there [Zavier Simpson], he's a bull. He just brings toughness that a lot of point guards can't match."

Simpson did more than bring toughness, though he did plenty of that, recording four steals and helping hound Holiday into five second-half turnovers. He also had his best offensive game in a Michigan uniform, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting with a pair of threes and a couple huge late layups, including an improbable scoop past Welsh to beat the shot clock.

"I call that the three o'clock," said Simpson. "Coach Beilein calls that the time layups, where he wants us to shoot 12 o'clock scoops, three o'clock, six o'clock, nine o'clock. Now I didn't know it was going glass, but I knew it was going in when I released it. It felt good."

Simpson scored 15 points and went 2-for-2 from downtown. [Campredon]

Seemingly all his shots were timely. After Moe Wagner shook off a slow start to add some critical buckets down the stretch, Simpson's "three o'clock" shot got the Wolverines within two, and with only 18 seconds left he pickpocketed Holiday and took it the other way for a layup, bringing M within a single point. G.G. Goloman split a pair of free throws, giving Michigan a chance to tie. When Eli Brooks got fouled on a strong baseline drive, the game came down to the last place Michigan wanted it to be: the free-throw line, where Brooks had gone 3-for-6 to start his freshman year.

"I don't think he's made two in a row all year long," said Beilein.

Brooks calmly sunk both free throws, the first he'd attempted all game. Beilein went back to Simpson for UCLA's final possession. That paid off in spades when he poked the ball away from Holiday, forcing an ugly final attempt by Prince Ali that was well off the mark.

Once Michigan had forced overtime, momentum carried them the rest of the way. Simpson opened the extra period with a three-pointer and Matthews took over from there, responding to a late-game challenge from Beilein, who didn't mince words late in the second half when missed free throws looked likely to cost the team the game.

"You've been the MVP for UCLA so far," Beilein told Matthews. "You've gotta be the MVP for us."

Matthews rose to the occasion, adding four more points in the final period to finish with 20, just behind Moe Wagner (23) for the team high on the afternoon. He also had one of Michigan's three steals in the extra session to ensure the team wouldn't have to sweat out the final seconds at the line.

"It's really a great testimony to our kids," Beilein said. "We did everything we could to play some inefficient basketball. When we really needed to suck it up and get some work done at the end, we got it done. I'm hoping it's a huge benchmark for our team as we go forward."

At the very least, it got Michigan a much-needed quality non-conference win, and they'll get a shot at another on Monday night at Texas. We may very well look back today's game—and the brutal Ohio State loss that preceded it—as a turning point akin to last year's Illinois debacle and its aftermath.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]




December 9th, 2017 at 5:39 PM ^

I still believe so. A few of those threes were in and out. Would be nice to get some plays to setup a midrange jumper to get his confidence going.

I wonder if guarding opposing 4s is taking a toll? Not opposed to having him come off the bench either. But we will need his 3 pt shooting if we want to make a run in march. It will open things up for mo, matthews and Maar to get to the rim.


December 9th, 2017 at 6:06 PM ^

So glad they pulled the game out! Was not looking good early second half, but Moe and Matthews really played well to get us back in it. The defense looked much better in the second half as well. I don't know what to say about the FT shooting. Worst I've seen with any JB team. Needs to improve for BIG play, as I'm sure we'll be in some tight games. All in all, it feels good to win a big game!!


December 9th, 2017 at 6:33 PM ^

I have to eat some words, Zavier Simpson was good today. He looked like a Div I player today. Still shoots the ball like a 7th grader coming from the chest but his defense was very helpful. Maybe we should press and up tempo more with the longer bench and interchangeable parts. We seem to have some long and quicks that can generate steals or UCLA has the same point guard issues we have. Boy if we could just recruit an occasional 5 star player. We just do not have the manpower to compete with the elites. 

Finally, when will we expect coach to beat Ohio and MSU. I am so tired of losing to these programs. For those of you born since 2000, we did beat them regularly at one point. 


December 10th, 2017 at 3:47 PM ^

exactly 7-7 against MSU since 2011.

and exactly 4-4 against OSU since 2013.

So if you're tired of losing half of the time we play them, then sure, we'd all like to win more.  But unless you haven't been watching this decade, we do beat those teams, some would say regularly (as regularly as they beat us, in fact).


December 9th, 2017 at 7:30 PM ^

That John Beilein is an asshole who can’t recruit or coach and THE SKY IS FALLING WE LOST TO OHIO STATE AND NOW THIS!?!?!?!?

Wait. I turned it off before the game was over...we forced OT and won?!?! Hail Beilein!

But the post-OSU game bitches about Beilein and the need for “scrappiness!” and the desire to “Want it!” were not hysterical at all!

L'Carpetron Do…

December 11th, 2017 at 10:51 AM ^

I disagree - they needed to WANT IT. And they did.  And they won! This was in stark contrast to how they played against Ohio State. They played sharp and focused and took control of the game.  And when the crowd got into it they seized the momentum and they started making a bit of their own luck. 

This is exactly what this team needs. If they play flat they can't win - and they seem to have more mental lapses/prolonged funks than most teams. I've been calling for more attitude from this team for weeks (even going back to last year) and I think I'm right!  I'm a big Beilein supporter and I'm excited they put it together on Saturday. They have to take this with them to Austin tomorrow night! If they continue to play like they did down the stretch vs UCLA this could be a fun season. GO BLUE!


December 9th, 2017 at 9:05 PM ^

34 minutes seem like an awful lot for someone who scored 4 points and doesn't play defense... everntually there's gotta be some change there. this type of stat line is becoming the norm more than an anomoly.

UCLA clearly targeting him nonstop driving to the basket, and had a lot of success... obviously teams know that easily works.

Great/Much needed win though, I'm impressed they pulled it off.


December 9th, 2017 at 10:52 PM ^

Livers is going to be a very good presenxce on the glass throughout his career.


Good to see them start to get Mo some looks at the top of the key.  Big men cant guard him out there and everything opens up when he hits those.


December 10th, 2017 at 3:49 PM ^

FYI.  Article says Monday. Just don't want anyone to be disappointed if they tune into some lesser game on Monday.

Also, the game broadcast had Eli at 5-8 from the FT before shooting his tonight. Ace is looking at the kenpom stats which exclude DII games so Chaminade isn't counted. I think excluding those stats is more indicative of what anyone should care about. Except FTs since there is no defense. 

He was 2-2 against Chaminade so Beilein was correct about his three trips to the line against D1 competition (went 1-2 each trip), but he forgot his 2-2 against Chaminade.  So he had one previous 2-2 trip this whole season and then did it in a clutch spot today.


December 11th, 2017 at 2:16 AM ^

We couldn't make a shot and they couldn't stop throwing the ball away. Then they stopped and got a 15 point lead, then we stopped (and they started again) and voila we won. Crazy game.

L'Carpetron Do…

December 11th, 2017 at 10:33 AM ^

So glad these boys played with some fire out there! They have to bring that attitude and energy every game - let's start tomorrow night down in Texas!  It's amazing how good this team is if they're in the right mindset.