NEW YORK — The view from behind the wheel is different from the one in the sidecar. When Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman converts fewer than 40 percent of his field-goal makes this winter, Michigan’s record is 9-5 (.643). When he’s at 40 percent or better, the Wolverines are 18-2 (.900).
When No. 12’s good, they’re great.
“It’s been tough,” said Abdur-Rahkman, the senior guard who helped Michigan knock Michigan State out of the Big Ten Tournament with a 75-64 victory. “Last year, I didn’t have that big of a role, but still was out there on the court, still contributing to big plays … and things like that. So you have a little bit of that experience. But you have to take the game to another level.”
Which he has, right along with the rest of the Wolverines. The 6-foot-4 wing guard is averaging 16 points and 2.2 treys per game over Michigan’s last 10 contests; the Wolverines are 9-1 over that stretch and are a victory away from becoming the first Big Ten program to win back-to-back league tourney crowns since 2011.
“You know that no game is guaranteed from here on out. And you just don’t want it to end the way you don’t want it to end.”
— Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on March urgency
“It took me a while to get used to [that role],” Abdur-Rahkman said, “but I’m ready to take on that challenge right now.”
And the timing rocks like the front row of a Kiss concert. It’s déjà vu in Wolverines country, and in the most beautiful of ways. Abdur-Rahkman’s heroics — including a game-clinching trey with 2:50 left in the contest that pushed the Michigan lead to 62-54 — are bringing back memories of his old backcourt mate, former Wolverines point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
“He’s different,” point guard Zavier Simpson said of Abdur-Rahkman. “He’s been playing great — definitely [has] some Derrick in him.
“But then again, he’s been a great leader. Without all the shooting and stuff, he’s been a great leader.”
Michigan beats MSU. Since the Wolverines committed to playing through Abdur-Rahkman, they've been as good as anyone in the Big Ten. Beilein somehow turned him into a better version Tim Hardaway Jr. in about a month. (Derrick Walton made a similar senior leap last year).
— Josh Stirn (@Josh_Stirn) March 3, 2018
After a 28-point game that paced an 85-61 rout of bubble-chasing Maryland on Feb. 24, Michigan coach John Beilein said Abdur-Rahkman’s hot stroke was starting to remind him of the 2017 run had by Walton — who’d averaged 19 points and 8 assists last March as the Wolverines won the Big Ten Tournament and danced all the way to the Sweet 16.
“It means a lot,” Abdur-Rahkman said of the comparison. “Because he was a big part of our success last year, was playing lights-out [in March].
“Me and him are two different players. But to be compared to him and how he was playing was big. It means a lot. But we aren’t done yet. We’ve got to keep playing.”
Senior urgency and all.
“Definitely senior urgency,” Abdur-Rahkman added. “You know that no game is guaranteed from here on out. And you just don’t want it to end the way you don’t want it to end.”