NCAA Tournament 2018: Michigan recruits wowed by Wolverines’ Sweet 16 victory over Texas A&M

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Michigan handled Texas A&M 99-72 on Thursday night in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Wolverines will play in the Elite Eight on Saturday against the winner of Gonzaga-Florida State for a spot in one of the Final Four semifinal games on March 31 in San Antonio.

It was the most points by a Michigan team in the NCAA Tournament since a 102-90 win against East Tennessee State in the second round in 1992.

Michigan’s 2018 class of recruits enjoyed watching their future teammates roll to the victory. Especially point guard David DeJulius Jr. of Detroit East English Village, who was at the game with his father. He said he’ll be staying for the West Regional final on Saturday.

“They played great ball,” DeJulius Jr. wrote in a text to Land of 10. “Zavier [Simpson] played very well. Pressured the ball hard, went on a stretch that helped blow the game open. Love what he’s doing.”

Simpson, a sophomore point guard, scored 11 points and had 6 steals with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Michigan converted 14 turnovers by Texas A&M into 20 points, including 16 points on 10 turnovers in the first half. Aggies freshman guard T.J. Starks had 21 points against No. 2 seed North Carolina on Sunday in an 86-65 win over the defending national champions but Simpson’s defense held him to just 5 points on 2-of-11 shooting with 5 turnovers and just 1 assist.

Former Wolverines guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was tweeting in all caps during the first half.

Texas A&M was never a match for the No. 3-seeded Wolverines. The lead hit double digits, 16-6, just 6 minutes, 25 seconds into the game and the Wolverines were up 52-28 at halftime after making 10 3-point shots in 16 attempts.

“I loved to see them blow them out but originally I didn’t think it would be that way,” said Colin Castleton, a 6-foot-10 center from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Father Lopez High School. “I thought we were going to win by about 10 or so but we came out ready to play right from the jump. Texas A&M just did not know what to do on defense or offense. It was awesome to see.”

Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 24 points, while junior forward Moe Wagner had 21 points, Charles Matthews scored 18 points and senior forward Duncan Robinson added 10 points.

“I think they have a fire under them right now, and that’s to win the whole thing,” said forward Brandon Johns of East Lansing. “This is all coming together for a really strong team.”

Michigan was outrebounded 33-28 but when a team makes 61.9 percent of its shots (39 of 63) overall and 58.3 percent of its 3-point attempts (14 of 24), there aren’t a lot of rebounds to get. The Wolverines shot a combined 39.6 percent in the first two rounds against Montana and Houston, and made just 13 of 46 treys (28.3 percent) in those victories. There were 11 days between the Big Ten Tournament title game win against Purdue and the first NCAA Tournament game against Montana.

“I did watch those first two games,” said Castleton. “I was talking to [assistant] coach Luke [Yaklich] about the 10-day stretch and how it affected them. He said he wasn’t worried but that stretch did hurt them pretty bad. They got the two wins and that’s all that really matters, that they got those wins and the big shot by Jordan [Poole], which everybody is talking about. That’s why they’re here.

“They stepped up their game because once you get into the Sweet 16, these teams are really elite.”

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