John Beilein wouldn’t deem it a Revenge Tour, no t-shirts will be printed, but for No. 19 Michigan’s returning players, Wednesday night’s game at Villanova was personal. Led by Charles Matthews, the Wolverines clawed the Wildcats in a result few saw coming, defeating No. 8 Villanova 73-46 at Finneran Pavilion just outside Philadelphia.
Unlike Chase Winovich and the Michigan football team, Charles Matthews decided to follow his coach’s lead post game and downplay the significance of the 27 point win.
“Honestly, I haven’t watched that game, like since we lost, I mean we saw bits and pieces of it in film,” Matthews told FS1’s Andy Katz post game. “I mean I just look at every game as just another game… They have a talented team, they have a great group of guys, my team was able to come out and win,” he concluded.
Matthews was the emotional leader Michigan needed in a titanic matchup like this, providing a huge spark at both ends of the floor and leading the team in scoring with 19 points. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis picked up where he left off in the Holy Cross game, finishing some athletic attempts inside and scored 18, collecting seven rebounds as well. Michigan came into the game shooting a mere 36.4% on the year; the offense picked a great time to find its footing, connecting on 51% from the floor.
The Wolverines stifled Villanova out of the gate, holding the hosts to a 1 for 7 start from the floor and never letting up defensively, keeping the Wildcats to a 14 for 44 (32 percent) for the game. Michigan held Villanova to 17 points in the first half, the lowest total in a first half during Jay Wright’s 18 seasons as Villanova coach. The 2018 National Champions finished the night with 21 turnovers to Michigan’s 8, but Beilein’s team made those turnovers count, scoring 25 points off turnovers to Villanova’s 1.
It was such a deflating first half for the sold-out crowd at Finneran Pavilion that the Wildcat students couldn’t even get excited when the arena blared “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes (a real crowd pleaser at college games this year) over the speakers during a media timeout.
The second half was no different as Villanova could not solve Michigan’s defense. With 15:37 left in the game, Wildcat guard Phil Booth’s errant pass was picked off by Jordan Poole, who tiptoed the sideline to keep it in bounds, Zavier Simpson collected the loose ball and hit a streaking Isaiah Livers as he drove to the hoop for two. That pushed Michigan’s lead back to 29. The Wildcats were not afraid to air their frustrations either, as Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree got into some light shoving with Zavier Simpson and exchanged words with Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis at the 13-minute mark of the second half. Simpson, however, was called for a flagrant one for a hook and hold.
The rest of the game was fairly ho-hum. Villanova tried to mount a comeback but found itself halted at every turn. Michigan carried no less than a twenty-six point lead for the entire second half. John Beilein let his freshmen Colin Castleton, David DeJulius, Brandon Johns and Adrian Nunez, along with sophomore C.J Baird finish out the game after the final media timeout. If you made any predictions about the game, those five seeing more than a couple of minutes at Villanova were not in your top 50 guesses.
While it’s only the third game of the season, and hyperbole can run high in November on the basketball court, Michigan played to its full potential Wednesday night at Finneran. This win will set the bar high moving forward, but will also give the Wolverines a healthy boost of confidence as they head to Connecticut this weekend for games against George Washington and either Providence or South Carolina. Barring a slip-up, the Wolverines are on a collision course with North Carolina in what could be a Top 10 matchup at Crisler Center in two weeks. Based on Wednesday’s game, the Wolverines will have no fear facing the Tar Heels on their own floor in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
While the final result won’t lessen the pain of losing a national championship game to Villanova last year, it does galvanize this year’s team into believing anything is possible. As the freshmen behind Ignas Brazdeikis grow and the offense finds its footing, there are plenty of reasons to believe it could be another special season for Michigan. Even if it is not a full-fledged revenge tour, it’s another signature win for John Beilein and his program.