UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Michigan coach John Beilein was concerned his Wolverines might suffer a letdown against George Washington after a blowout victory over No. 8 Villanova on the road.
There was still a tinge of worry during the first half of Saturday’s semifinal of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off tournament when GW (0-4) cut an 18-point Wolverine lead to six.
But No. 18 Michigan (4-0), which led by nine points at halftime, went on a 13-2 run to open the second half and finished with an easy 84-61 victory over the Colonials.
“A lot of the message after the Villanova game was handling success,” Beilein said. “Some kids struggle with that. It’s very natural. Michigan is not going to fall into that trap.”
Charles Matthews led the Wolverines with 25 points and Jordan Poole made five of his eight 3-point shots to add a career-high 22. Zavier Simpson finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Poole had made just one 3-pointer on 10 attempts coming into the game and was shooting just over 23 percent from the field. He hit his first three shots and finished 7 of 12 from the floor. The sophomore guard insisted that nothing had changed with his shot, but Simpson said he noticed a difference.
“Me and Jordan were having a little contest before the game,” Simpson said. “We were basically bragging with each other how our shot was feeling good today. So I’m not sure what he was talking about feeling normal. Then he knocked the first one down. That was kind of like, ‘I told you so.'”
Michigan, which gave up just 46 points in its 27-point victory at Villanova on Wednesday, held the Colonials to 39 percent shooting and outscored GW 17-2 on the fast break.
D.J. Williams had 16 points to lead George Washington, which lost its second straight game to a ranked opponent after falling by 19 points at No. 4 Virginia last Sunday.
“We’re a work in progress,” GW coach Maurice Joseph said. “The last two games, playing quality opponents, is something we can look back to in conference play and I think we’ll be more battled tested. It’s never fun taking these losses. But I believe our guys will grow from these opportunities.”
The Wolverines play Providence in Sunday’s championship game.
David Duke scored 20 points to rally Providence to a 76-65 win over South Carolina.
Alpha Diallo added 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Friars (3-1), who trailed by eight points at halftime and nine early in the second half.
A.J. Reeves scored eight of his 10 points during a 10-0 Friars’ run that put Providence on top 44-43.
The teams went back and forth before Jimmy Nichols followed a missed shot with the first of the three straight Providence dunks. That gave the Friars a 54-49 lead, led coach Ed Cooley to toss aside his suit jacket and brought the pro-Providence crowd to its feet.
The game was played 60 miles from the Friars’ campus across the state line.
“We get a lot of fan support when we come down here, so it’s definitely worth it to come,” Cooley said. “My jacket comes off and sometimes I don’t even feel it. I don’t. It’s just a matter of getting into the game and getting excited.”
Consecutive 3-pointers from Duke and Isaiah Jackson made it 65-54 and put the game out of reach.
“I struggled a little bit before shooting the ball, but I came in today with a stay-positive attitude,” Duke said. “I know what I’m capable of and Coach put his trust in me. Once I got one, I started feeling it.”
Hassani Gravett scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures for South Carolina (2-2).
The Gamecocks committed 38 fouls and made just six of 25 shots from 3-point range.
Martin said he’ll be looking for one thing on Sunday when the Gamecocks face George Washington in the consolation game.
“Growth,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s why you play these events. You line up and play Providence in Providence, even though we’re just across the state line. You’ve got to challenge your team to force them to grow. We’re privileged we get to play in the SEC, just like Providence in the Big East. Those are elite basketball conferences. It’s our job as coaches, out duties, to prepare our teams to play in conference play.”