Early on, this looked like North Carolina’s type of game. The Tar Heels scored on their first three possessions, set the pace at their preferred tempo, and veteran big man Luke Maye had a couple of buckets. Michigan had to sub out Ignas Brazdeikis after an early foul, and following a few careless turnovers and a few more scores by UNC, the Wolverines trailed 21-11 eight minutes into the contest. At that point, North Carolina was 9-13 shooting from the field and controlled the game.
From there, Michigan went on to outscore the Tar Heels by 27 and blew out their seventh opponent in seven games. UM quickly erased the deficit: it started with an awkward sequence that ended with a Zavier Simpson steal and layup, Iggy scored three the old-fashioned way and hit a spot-up three on consecutive possessions, and Eli Brooks made another three to take the lead. The game began to get more frenetic late in the first half, but it was to Michigan’s advantage as they went on an extended 17-2 run.
North Carolina inadvertently slowed the game down with some fouls and regained the lead; the Wolverines got just one point out of three one-and-one situations (it was a bad night at the line for Michigan, who shot just 11-23). Matthews and Jordan Poole each hit threes on the last possessions of the half though, and UM took a 39-35 lead into the break. Michigan had adjusted to North Carolina’s style, and the defense locked in for the rest of the game - but it was the Wolverine offense that keyed the rout in the second half.
Maye hit the first basket out of halftime on a post hook over Iggy, but Iggy quickly returned the favor by burning him on a backdoor cut from the wing. Jordan Poole hit a tough step-back three late in the shot clock; he set up Iggy for another three; and Simpson lobbed an alley-oop to Jon Teske to prompt a timeout from Roy Williams less than three minutes into the half. At the under-16 timeout, Williams subbed in his entire bench and by the time the starters returned, the deficit was at 18 and the game was basically over.
After UNC reserve guard Leaky Black hit a three to briefly stem the bleeding, he and Matthews started jawing and prompted an intervention from the refs; on the next two possessions, Matthews skied for a put-back dunk and was fouled for a three-point play, and then he blocked a shot from Black into the student section. That sequence was basically the half in microcosm, as the Wolverines dominated at both ends for much of the second stanza.
North Carolina tried to mount a late rally. Cameron Johnson, who entered the game as their leading scorer, was held scoreless (mostly due to the efforts of Matthews) until he made a layup over Iggy and was fouled, missed the free throw and wound up hitting a three on that same possession; Kenny Williams knocked down consecutive threes; a 22-point lead was trimmed in half. After the two teams traded empty possessions, Matthews knocked down a big three to slam the door. On Michigan’s last possession of the game, Poole hit a deep step-back three to beat the shot clock - a fitting conclusion to an extremely impressive performance.
Iggy and Matthews were major catalysts for Michigan, combining for 45 points on just 32 shooting possessions, and they were consistently excellent on both ends throughout the game. Poole scored 15 of his 18 points (and hit four threes) after halftime to provide a huge boost. Jon Teske had just 6 points and 5 rebounds in his season-high 34 minutes, but stepped up with Livers limited by foul trouble. He blocked five shots, was a deterrent around the rim, and made several impressive plays, including corralling freshman phenom Nassir Little (who had a rough night) on a switch and forcing a bad miss.
The Wolverines shot 63% on twos, hit 11 threes, and still finished with a healthy 1.20 points per possession despite the bad free throw shooting. On the other end of the floor, they held the potent Tar Heel offense to under a point per possession, were solid on the defensive glass for most of the game, allowed relatively few transition baskets, and - as usual - contested almost every shot well. Maye and point guard Coby White were inefficient; Johnson and Little had some of the worst games they’ll have all season.
Much like they did in the Villanova game, Michigan staked a compelling claim as one of the best teams in the country with this emphatic win in a marquee game. The Wolverine defense passed a tough test against one of the best offenses they’ll face - and they’ll get another quality offense on Saturday as Carsen Edwards and Purdue come to town on Saturday. Michigan seems poised for a special season, and if the offense clicks like it did tonight, this team has an unbelievably high ceiling. It’s gonna be a fun year.
[Box score after the JUMP]