Charles Matthews scored 20 points to lead the Michigan men’s basketball team to a 61-47 win against Montana in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Wichita, Kan.
Matthews helped Michigan (29-7) rally from an early deficit against the Grizzlies, in a game that at times appeared to be a battle of attrition, especially in the second half, when both teams went on extended scoring droughts.
WHY MICHIGAN WON: Montana stymied Michigan with its defense in the opening moments of the first-round game, and forced the Wolverines into taking early fouls and making uncharacteristic turnovers. The Grizzlies built a 10-0 lead, as Michigan didn’t score its first points until Matthews’ jumper inside the 16-minute mark.
Michigan chipped away at Montana’s lead in a stretch in which the Grizzlies went scoreless for nearly five minutes, tying the score at 17-17 on Matthews’ layup with 6:40 left in the first half. Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rahkman gave the Wolverines their first lead at 22-19 with 3:59 left, en route to a 31-28 halftime lead.
Moritz Wagner scored his first points on a thundering dunk in the opening seconds of the second half, which set the tone for the Wolverines. A delay of nearly 10 minutes for electrical and timing issues at Intrust Bank Arena and a scoring drought of nearly three minutes early in the second half didn’t deter Michigan, either. The Wolverines held the Grizzlies scoreless for a stretch of nearly 10 minutes, and built their lead to as many as 14 points en route to the first-round win against the Big Sky Conference champions.
WHAT IT MEANS: Michigan advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Michigan stretched its winning streak to 10 games, a run that dates to Feb. 11. The Wolverines also earned their first win over Montana in program history.
WHO STARRED: Matthews led all scorers with 20 points, including 12 in the first half. Matthews rose in the absence of Wagner, who was scoreless in the first half. Abdur-Rahkman added 11 points for Michigan.
WHO STUMBLED: Wagner slumped in the first half, as did Zavier Simpson. Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman got into early foul trouble. Wagner scored 5 points, all in the second half.
WHO IS NEXT: Michigan on Saturday will face No. 6 Houston, which defeated No. 11 San Diego State 67-65, at a time to be determined at Intrust Bank Center. The game time will be announced at the conclusion of the first-round games Thursday.