ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) With Michigan rolling to a convincing victory in its last scheduled home game of the season, senior Max Bielfeldt was closing in on a milestone.
Bielfeldt had never had more than nine rebounds in a game, but now, he had a chance for a double-double
”My teammates were very adamant about telling me,” the 6-foot-8 forward said. ”I look over to the bench to look for a play, and you’ve got, like, Caris (LeVert) on the bench, like, `Two more.”’
Bielfeldt ended up with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Aubrey Dawkins added a career-high 31 points to lift Michigan to a 79-69 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. The Wolverines finished a disappointing regular season on a positive note, winning for only the second time in their last nine games.
Michigan (15-15, 8-10 Big Ten) led 47-28 at halftime, and Dawkins made eight 3-pointers, falling one short of Garde Thompson’s school record from 1987. Bielfeldt, meanwhile, played one of his best games as a Wolverine after being honored as part of Michigan’s senior day festivities.
Although he is listed as a senior and is expected to graduate this spring, Bielfeldt does have a year of eligibility remaining because of a redshirt season he took in 2012. The understanding has been that he won’t be back at Michigan, but Bielfeldt says he and coach John Beilein might meet at the end of the season. Bielfeldt said he’d like to keep playing somewhere and he’d be open to remaining with the Wolverines.
”It would definitely be on my list,” Bielfeldt said. ”I’ve had great memories, great friends here.”
Beilein said the door isn’t completely closed on a return for Bielfeldt.
”We probably will talk after the season,” Beilein said. ”I don’t think anything’s ever closed, but I wanted to make sure that we under-promise and over-deliver. So make sure that he knew that this was his last year, and I would like him to go out and explore some options. We’ll look at some options, and we’ll decide whether it’s a good option to come back.”
The crowd let out a huge cheer when Bielfeldt secured his 10th rebound, which gave him a double-double.
Rutgers (10-21, 2-16) finished last in its first season in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights have not won since upsetting Wisconsin on Jan. 11.
With Michigan in command for the whole second half, it was the individual exploits of Dawkins and Bielfeldt that provided much of the drama. Dawkins, a freshman, finished 8 of 11 from 3-point range. The son of Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins has shown potential this year for Michigan, which has been playing without injured guards LeVert and Derrick Walton.
”He really surprised us, because we’d never seen him do anything like that on tape,” Rutgers guard Myles Mack said. ”We knew he could shoot a little, but 8 of 10? That’s a breakout game for a great shooter.”
An alley-oop dunk by Dawkins put him over the 30-point mark and gave Michigan a 79-50 lead. Then Rutgers scored the game’s last 19 points to make the final score look more respectable.
Kadeem Jack led Rutgers with 21 points.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are winless in seven meetings with Michigan.
Michigan: The Wolverines shot 14 of 31 from 3-point range.
In addition to honoring senior Max Bielfeldt, Michigan let freshmen Jon Rubenstein and Ryan Kapustka suit up for the game. They both played toward the end.
Rubenstein and Kapustka were initially managers, but amid mounting injuries, they were cleared to become practice players and have been on the scout team.
PULLING THE PLUG
The lights illuminating the court went out for a few seconds with 9:08 remaining in the first half. Michigan was already up 29-19 at that point.
Rutgers: Opens the Big Ten tournament Wednesday night as the No. 14 seed.
Michigan: Plays on Thursday as the conference tournament’s No. 8 seed.