Michigan plods to 61-47 win over Montana in NCAA first round

Montana forward Fabijan Krslovic, right, tries to steal the ball from Michigan guard Jaaron Simmons, left, during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament first-round game Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Wichita, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Charles Matthews had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Michigan locked down on defense and the third-seeded Wolverines beat Montana 61-47 in a plodding first-round NCAA Tournament game Thursday night.

Michigan (29-7) trailed by 10 in the opening minutes, struggled to get into rhythm until late in the first half, and never really went on a big run to seize control of the game.

Instead, coach John Beilein's team methodically drew away over a long period of the second half when No. 14 seed Montana (25-8) failed to score, and chugged into a matchup with sixth-seeded Houston - a last-second winner over San Diego State - in the second round of the West Region.

Michael Oguine and Ahmaad Rorie scored 15 points apiece to lead the Grizzlies.

Perhaps the Wolverines were a bit rusty by the long layoff after the Big Ten Tournament, which was moved up a week so that it could be played at Madison Square Garden this year, because it was the plucky Big Sky champions who roared to the game's first 10 points.

Michigan's Zavier Simpson played just four first-half minutes because of fouls, and Moritz Wagner was scoreless at the break on 0-for-3 shooting, as Montana employed some early trapping.

It took Matthews pouring in 12 first-half points to get the Wolverines on track.

Then it took some stingy defense to pull away.

Wagner scored the first points of the second half, and after Montana's Jamar Akoh answered at the other end, the Grizzlies proceeded to miss their next 12 field-goal attempts. They did not even get to the foul line, which meant a scoreless drought that lasted nearly 10 minutes.

Michigan used the lull to push a 31-28 halftime lead to 44-30 with about 9 1/2 minutes left, and then maintained its advantage the rest of the way in cruising into the second round.


The second half was delayed for about 10 minutes with 17:53 to go when the power running the shot clocks went out. The control board was swapped out and the game eventually resumed.


Montana was 7 of 28 from the field in the second half, and many of the misses were open looks near the basket. That's hardly the recipe for an NCAA Tournament upset, especially against a team in Michigan that entered the dance on a nine-game winning streak.

Michigan never looked like it woke up for the late start, which was pushed back even later because of long early games. The Wolverines will need to do that before Saturday, when they will have to contend with high-scoring Houston star Rob Gray.


Montana rues its fifth straight NCAA Tournament loss while the Wolverines set their sights on Houston, which beat the Aztecs on Gray's wind-milling layup with 1.1 seconds left.