ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan coach John Beilein knew that Central Michigan posed a threat in Monday night’s game at Crisler Center.
Despite getting all it could handle from the visiting Chippewas, Michigan finally created enough separation in a 72-65 win.
“I love their style and they have a good mix, a lot like us,” Beilein said. “It’s a little of our own medicine there. They shot the ball extremely well from 3, ran some good stuff early. We made some adjustments.”
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had 17 points, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson each scored 13, and Moritz Wagner added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolverines, who improved to 22-3 all-time against Central Michigan.
“We have to understand that people are gunning for us,” said senior guard Duncan Robinson, who scored 10 points. “We knew they were very talented and well coached. No surprise there. They got it going, especially in the first half, but we were able to hang in there and bounce back.”
Shawn Roundtree had 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, to lead the Chippewas. Luke Meyer added 12 points.
Michigan, which led 32-31 at halftime, built a 62-53 lead after a Matthews steal and dunk with 4 minutes left. Simpson’s 3-pointer made it 67-58 with 2 minutes left.
“If we play that hard, we’ll win our share of games,” Central Michigan coach Keno Davis said. “Our guys are disappointed in the locker room; they’re not excited that they played close. I like our chances to really improve as we get to (January).”
Central Michigan was competitive from the opening tip, leading by eight on four different occasions in the first half. After Michigan took a 3-2 lead, the Chippewas went on a 9-0 run, capped by Matt Beachler’s 3-pointer, to take an 11-3 advantage.
Central Michigan, which also led, 22-14, 28-20 and 30-22, shot 11 of 26 in the first half, including 5 of 13 from 3-point range. Meyer and Roundtree each scored nine points in the first half.
The Wolverines finished the half with a 10-1 run, taking a slim lead into the break.
“It was pretty tense,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “We knew it was going to be close. I tried to come out and be aggressive from the beginning and set the tone.”
TRANSFERS TAKE OVER
Michigan transfers Jaaron Simmons and Matthews helped spark the Wolverines in the second half. With Central Michigan leading 47-46, Simmons and Matthews nailed consecutive 3-pointers to put the Wolverines ahead 52-47 with 10:30 left.
After a Chippewas’ basket, Matthews hit a jumper to keep the lead at five. Later, Matthews’ dunk put Michigan up by nine.
“They can come in the game, feel the game and play,” Beilein said. “But they’re still sorting some of it out. Jaaron’s in a whole different style right now and Charles is trying to figure out, ‘What’s my next play? How can I keep things simple?'”
Central Michigan: The Chippewas, a member of the Mid-American Conference, appear to be improved from last season, when they lost their final eight games. Despite losing Marcus Keene, last year’s leading scorer in the nation at 30 points per game, Central Michigan showed a well-rounded offensive attack against the Wolverines. Eight different players scored for the Chippewas.
Michigan: The Wolverines have struggled out of the gate in both their games this season, trailing North Florida by seven in the first half of Saturday’s season-opener and falling behind Central Michigan early. Michigan needs to get off to better starts and not rely on second-half rallies. The Wolverines, who are replacing numerous key players from last season, should improve as the season progresses.
Central Michigan: Hosts Eureka at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Michigan: Hosts Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m. Thursday.