ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After 40 minutes of poised offense and smothering defense by Michigan, North Carolina coach Roy Williams was at the end of his wits.
“As a coach, I feel like I’ve done the worst job with this team in 31 years as a head coach, but give Michigan the credit,” Williams said. “They made the tougher plays.”
Williams’ frustration was understandable, but his team didn’t look much worse than the other opponents that have faced seventh-ranked Michigan lately. Charles Matthews had 21 points and seven rebounds, and Zavier Simpson spearheaded another strong defensive effort as the Wolverines rolled to an 84-67 victory over the 11th-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday night.
Jordan Poole scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half for Michigan (7-0), which led 39-35 at halftime and then shut down the Tar Heels’ fast-paced offense for a while. North Carolina (6-2) came in averaging 96.6 points per game, but Michigan was allowing half that at 48.3. The Tar Heels ended up between those two extremes, but a good deal closer to the lower number.
“We couldn’t simulate in practice with our scout team how fast (Coby) White was going to get down the floor, how fast they were going to run with their big guys,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “They got us early, but then we adjusted and we were fine.”
North Carolina was sharp offensively early, taking a 21-11 lead, but the Wolverines responded with a 19-4 run that included 10 points by Iggy Brazdeikis. Michigan closed the half on a bright note . Matthews sank a 3-pointer, then 7-foot-1 Jon Teske dove on the floor to secure a loose ball, helping set up a 3 by Poole in the final seconds.
“Being able to end the first half on a run like that was huge, because we had momentum going into the locker room,” Poole said. “It definitely got everybody going.”
Michigan outscored North Carolina 34-16 in the first 12:13 of the second half. At times, just getting a shot to the rim felt like an accomplishment for the Tar Heels. An alley-oop dunk by Teske put the Wolverines up 49-39, causing North Carolina to take a timeout. Matthews provided an even more emphatic highlight later on, slamming home an offensive rebound while drawing a foul.
Matthews completed that three-point play to make it 56-42, and then Teske and Matthews blocked shots at the other end. A 3-pointer by Poole made it 63-43.
“Right now we stink,” Williams said. “We work on a screen on the ball every day. Three plays in a row, they set a screen in the middle of the court and dunk it or lay it up. Guys, I got no positive things. If you want some positive things, you better go out and find somebody on the street, because I got no positives for me, no positives for my team.”
Michigan led 73-51 before North Carolina went on an 11-0 run. Matthews halted that with a 3-pointer.
Luke Maye had 11 points and 15 rebounds for North Carolina. Brazdeikis scored 24 points for Michigan.
Michigan’s victory enabled the Big Ten to salvage a 7-7 split in this season’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines lost to the Tar Heels 86-71 in last season’s edition.
White finished with 12 points and four assists for the Tar Heels, but Simpson, Michigan’s point guard, played his usual tough defense.
“We started off strong, but against a good team, if you throw the first punch, they’re going to fight back,” White said. “We threw the first punch and they threw every punch. We played well in the first five minutes and then we didn’t really compete.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were on the road — and they’re certainly not alone in losing big to Michigan this season. Villanova fell by 27 to the Wolverines at home. But this was an ugly night for North Carolina, which started well on the offensive end and still ended up shooting 39 percent for the game.
Michigan: The Wolverines might be willing to start the NCAA Tournament right now. Matthews had a terrific all-around game at both ends of the court, and Michigan showed yet again that it can shut down even a talented offensive team for extended stretches.
Michigan has the win over Villanova and this rout. If the Wolverines make it through the rest of the week without a loss, they could move up a few spots, depending on what teams above them do. North Carolina figures to drop after a second loss in seven days.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels host UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night.
Michigan: The Wolverines open their Big Ten schedule at home against Purdue on Saturday.