DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Michigan coach John Beilein didn’t need to worry after all. Four days after his Wolverines’ disappointing loss in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, they did exactly what they were supposed to against 15th-seeded Montana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
They got off to a fast start, led by double digits quickly and went on to a 74-55 win Thursday night.
“Monday we were down. Tuesday’s practice was just OK,” Beilein said. “I thought when we got here, we had a really good practice yesterday. We got another chance. Sometimes teams lose a championship game and don’t get a chance to play again. Our kids are smart. They knew what to do and we bounced back.”
Charles Matthews had 22 points and 10 rebounds in his best performance since coming back from injury. Ignas Brazdeikis added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Jon Teske had 11 points and nine boards for the Wolverines, who led by as many as 27 points in the second half.
“I love the way we came out,” Beilein said. “We had a little blip to start the second half and then we came back from that, too.”
The Wolverines (29-6) are in the round of 32 for the third straight year. They’ll play Florida on Saturday.
Sayeed Pridgett had 17 points for Montana (26-9). The Grizzlies’ 33-percent shooting from the field was their second-worst of the season.
“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the ball in the basket,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “But I credit the Michigan defense. They did what they do. They make it difficult to get good shots. Then it snowballed and got away from us.”
Montana missed 13 of its first 16 shots and trailed by 13 points 10 minutes into the game. The start was in stark contrast to last year when these teams met in the first round. The Grizzlies scored the game’s first 10 points before giving way and losing 61-47.
“We talked about that sometimes this is the toughest game to get over,” Teske said. “Just to have this under our belts feels good.”
Matthews was 8 of 12 from the floor while posting his third double-double of the season. He had been a combined 6 of 21 for a total of 15 points in the three games since he came back from a right ankle injury that sidelined him three games.
“He’s really important, just his presence and leadership on both sides of the ball,” Teske said. “He really worked hard to get back.”
Montana: The Grizzlies were missing 6-foot-8, 253-pound redshirt senior forward Jamar Akoh once again because of a knee injury. Not that it would have made much difference, but they could have used him against the 7-1, 260-pound Teske and Michigan’s other bigs. As it is, they won 15 of their last 18 games and played in the tournament for the second straight year and fifth time in 10 years.
Michigan: The Wolverines put the loss to Michigan State in their rearview mirror with an easy win over the Grizzlies. Now it’s on to what figures to be a challenging game against a defensive-oriented No. 10 seed in Florida. The Wolverines beat the Gators in the Elite Eight on their way to the 2013 national championship game.
PRETTY AS YOU PLEASE
Montana’s Pridgett made the prettiest play of the game when, starting on the right wing, he put a spin move on Teske while driving to the basket and finished with a left-handed reverse layup early in the second half.
Montana: DeCuire loses a lot of scoring punch from a team that won 52 games the last two seasons, the best stretch in program history.
Michigan: Plays Florida in the second round Saturday.
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