Muhammad-Ali Abdul-Jabbar [Paul Sherman]
Maryland came into the season finale as a fringe bubble team, and for the second game in a row, Michigan went on the road and won against a team clinging to faint NCAA Tournament hopes on their Senior Night. This one was over well before halftime, as Michigan gained their footing after a few early turnovers and ran the Terrapins out of the building. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman continued his excellent run of form, playing the best game as a Wolverine while wearing some goggles after having been poked in the eye earlier this week.
Michigan’s first four possessions were a Charles Matthews turnover, an Isaiah Livers turnover, a Zavier Simpson missed three, and a Simpson turnover. From there, Rahkman took over. He opened the scoring for Michigan with a three-pointer, and then - after Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson entered the game - hit two more in quick succession: a corner three after his own offensive rebound, and a deep three off a switch against Michal Cekovsky. Rahkman would eventually score 22 points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating three to put Michigan up by 30 entering the break.
Rahkman’s shooting kept the Wolverines in it early, as Maryland’s offense was able to generate some good looks, but once Jon Teske checked in (and had a few excellent defensive possessions in a row), the Terrapin offense stalled out and wasn’t able to recover for the rest of the half. Teske entered the game for the first time when Michigan led 13-12, and they outscored Maryland 41-12 over the rest of the half. The onslaught started with a Robinson three, continued with seven straight points from Jaaron Simmons, included consecutive Poole threes, and Rahkman helped slam the door from there. Even a flubbed alley-oop attempt from Simpson to Robinson wound up resulting in two made free throws from Rahkman, in addition to his banked-in wing three and a ridiculous step-back three over Joshua Tomaic.
It was the best half Michigan has played this season, by far. Per SCACC Hoops, the Wolverines scored 1.64 points per possession and allowed just 0.76 - outscoring any team by almost a point per possession over an entire half is absurd, let alone in a road conference game. They made eleven threes (six of which came from Rahkman) and had an effective field goal percentage that was more than twice as high as Maryland’s. They only turned it over once after their initial struggles. Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando combined for 17 points, but the rest of Maryland’s players only had seven. Rahkman and company utterly silenced a pretty decent crowd, and they put the game on cruise control in the second half.
There were a few interesting things in that extended garbage time. Maryland started the half with the smallest lineup Michigan has seen all year, with 6’4 wing Darryl Morsell at the five; at first, it caused Michigan some problems on the offensive end, but eventually the Wolverines settled in after a few post entries and pick-and-roll dishes to the big men. The Terrapins got into the bonus early in the second half, as Anthony Cowan woke up and attacked the rim often - he finished with a team-high 17 points. Michigan also made a concerted effort to get Matthews involved, which paid off: he had a few nice drives that resulted in layups, and knocked down two threes from his left corner. After being held scoreless in the first half, he finished with 11 points.
In the end, Maryland was unable to get the deficit closer than 19 points, and Michigan played what was its most dominant performance since its target practice against the non-conference minnows at the end of December. There were some solid stints off the bench - Poole had 12 points in 12 first half minutes, and Robinson and Simmons each scored 7 - and Matthews had some encouraging plays, but the star was undoubtedly Rahkman. He had a career high 28 points, and also chipped in with 7 assists and 8 rebounds. Starting with the Purdue loss a month ago, he’s averaged 16.9 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.6 rebounds over a nine-game sample.
Michigan’s final three games were effectively toss-ups, and they won all three decisively: taking care of Ohio State at home, holding on against Penn State in Happy Valley, and then obliterating Maryland in College Park. The latest win moves Michigan up to 24-7 (13-5 Big Ten) and 15th nationally in Kenpom, and depending on tomorrow’s Nebraska - Penn State game, they might get a double bye in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. For context, last season’s Big Ten Tournament champion and Sweet 16 team finished the regular season at 20-11 (10-8 Big Ten) and 27th nationally in Kenpom.
Box score after the JUMP