Matthews shakes off in­de­ci­sion, be­comes UM’s Mr. Clutch again

The Detroit News - - SPORTS - BY JAMES HAWKINS The Detroit News

Ann Ar­bor — Con­sider it the res­ur­rec­tion of red­shirt ju­nior wing Charles Matthews.

When Matthews backed down a Rut­gers de­fender in the post and buried a turn­around jumper last week, Michi­gan coach John Beilein grabbed him at the next stop­page, looked him in the eye and told him, “That’s who you are, Charles. And don’t think any­thing dif­fer­ent.”

“Those turn­around shots at the be­gin­ning looked like we were back at Vil­lanova the way he started that game,” Beilein said fol­low­ing the win at Rut­gers. “That’s who he is.”

When Matthews took over in the se­cond half and de­liv­ered clutch shot af­ter clutch shot down the stretch in Sat­ur­day’s 61-52 win over Wis­con­sin, it looked like an­other time — last sea­son’s NCAA Tour­na­ment when he showed how high his and the Wolverines’ ceil­ing can be.

“This is what I en­vi­sioned for him when he came here,” Beilein said. “There’s been times in the games that he's not sure what he should do. Should he shoot it? Should he take it to the bas­ket? Should he pass it? With the ex­cep­tion of the first half … he had a great mix of mak­ing those de­ci­sions.”

Over the past month, though, un­cer­tainty bled into Matthews’ of­fen­sive num­bers. En­ter­ing Sat­ur­day’s con­test, Matthews was av­er­ag­ing eight points, shoot­ing 31.4 per­cent from the floor and record­ing as many as­sists (1.7) as turnovers over the past six games.

But the in­de­ci­sion that had in­fil­trated his game? There was none of that on Sat­ur­day over the fi­nal 20 min­utes.

Matthews was de­ci­sive and dy­namic. He had a hand in 17 straight points for Michi­gan (22-2, 11-2 Big Ten) by dump­ing off passes to ju­nior cen­ter Jon Teske for a pair of three-point plays, tip­ping out a missed shot that led to a se­cond-chance layup by sopho­more guard Jor­dan Poole, and scor­ing four straight bas­kets around the rim.

“With most play­ers it’s very con­ta­gious; you just make a shot and all of sud­den you say, ‘I got it go­ing. I made two, I’ve got it go­ing,’” Beilein said. “You miss two or three in a row, it’s re­ally hard to make the fourth, fifth or sixth.

“There’s no magic in that ei­ther. He made shots and now all of sud­den he made more shots be­cause he re­laxed. He’s not press­ing. That’s what is re­ally im­por­tant and if you’re go­ing to be good player you can­not be afraid to miss, or you can’t press if you miss two or three in a row.”

Ac­cord­ing to Beilein, he saw a weak­ness in Matthews’ de­fen­sive matchup and ex­ploited it by di­al­ing him up of­ten in ballscreen sit­u­a­tions.

That meant Matthews wasn’t just stand­ing around in the cor­ner. He was mov­ing. He was at­tack­ing. He was over­pow­er­ing his de­fender. He was pick­ing his spots and ex­plod­ing to the rim.

And ev­ery­thing came to­gether for Matthews — “He was see­ing it bet­ter, shoot­ing it bet­ter, read­ing it bet­ter,” Beilein said — as he racked up a team-high 18 points, 16 in the se­cond half, on 9-for-15 shoot­ing to go along with his usual ha­rass­ing de­fense in a low-pos­ses­sion game where ev­ery de­ci­sion mat­tered.

“I thought we let him get too com­fort­able,” Wis­con­sin coach Greg Gard said. “In the se­cond half, he got free in the post on us and got some con­fi­dence. When you get easy bas­kets like that then the jump shots and in­ter­me­di­ate ones and the con­tested ones be­come eas­ier be­cause he's got some con­fi­dence and the bas­ket looks big­ger.

“We al­lowed that to hap­pen in some re­gards, but ob­vi­ously it’s a credit to Charles be­cause he made plays. He’s done that for them. He makes big shots and once he got go­ing, he was hard to stop.”

Es­pe­cially in the fi­nal 90 sec­onds when Matthews turned into a closer with two cold­blooded buck­ets — ones he might’ve tried to force in­stead of let­ting come to him in re­cent weeks.

He drained a fade­away shot along the base­line to put Michi­gan up five and sealed the vic­tory with a shot clock-beat­ing, fall-away jumper from the freethrow line with 23 sec­onds re­main­ing.

“I feel like the mo­ment you start think­ing you’re in a slump, that’s go­ing to con­tinue go­ing,” Matthews said. “I al­ways come into a game like, ‘All right, this is it. Let me get go­ing.’

“I never doubted my­self. I un­der­stand as a player you go through these times. There’s go­ing to be more times in my ca­reer where I have bad games. I’ve got a lot of bas­ket­ball left in me. I never got dis­cour­aged and I'm go­ing to con­tinue to shoot my way out of any bad mo­ment.”

Even as the missed jumpers and in­de­ci­sive­ness seem­ingly put a strain on his game, Matthews shook it all off.

“I’ve got pretty short me­mory,” he said. “That’s prob­a­bly why I miss so many shots when I do. Some­times I will be­cause I don’t care.

“I’m just go­ing to shoot the next one. Peo­ple might hate it, but that's just how I am.”

But who Matthews is? If any­body for­got, he rein­tro­duced him­self on Sat­ur­day.

Robin Buck­son/ Detroit News

Charles Matthews

Robin Buck­son/Detroit News

Michi­gan for­ward Charles Matthews, right, scored 16 of his 18 points against Wis­con­sin on Sat­ur­day in the se­cond half.

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