Evolution of Michigan's Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on display in win

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Michigan guard Ibi Watson (23) shoots over Jacksonville guard Jalyn Hinton (11) in the first half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) attempts to get to the basket while defended by Jacksonville guards Jalyn Hinton, left, and Devin Harris, right, in the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) goes to the basket while defended by Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) in the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Michigan guard Jordan Poole (2) maneuvers to the basket as Jacksonville forward Cody Helgeland (33), guard Derrick Flowers (21) and forward Damien Sears (5) defend during the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) controls the ball defended by Jacksonville guard Jalyn Hinton (11) and guard Devin Harris (3) in the first half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Jacksonville center Radwan Bakkali (22) looks to shoot against Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) in the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) dribbles against Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) in the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) shoots against Michigan guard Zavier Simpson (3) in the second half of U-M‘s 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) pressures Jacksonville guard Radwan Bakkali (22) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Michigan center Jon Teske (15) has a shot attempt blocked by Jacksonville forward Cody Helgeland (33) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Jacksonville guard Tanner Rubio (0) defends against a shot-attempt from Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Tony Ding, AP Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) shoots against Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) reacts after a foul in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan center Jon Teske (15) shoots against Jacksonville guard Jalyn Hinton (11) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) shoots in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan cheerleaders perform during a timeout in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) shoots against Jacksonville forward Damien Sears (5) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) moves the ball against Jacksonville forward Damien Sears (5) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) dribbles against Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.  Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports

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Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) moves the ball against Jacksonville forward Damien Sears (5) in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center.(Photo: Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports)

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Michigan has had some good “two-guards” under coach John Beilein.

At his postgame news conference after , Beilein listed them:

Stu Douglass, Tim Hardaway Jr., Caris LeVert and, now, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Beilein said they were different players, and the challenge for him was to find out how to optimize their talents.

For Abdur-Rahkman, that may be coming to fruition. Saturday was perhaps the best example of it.

The senior guard finished with a season-high 20 points. It was the apparent ease with which he scored those points that was most impressive, going a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor.

It started with 10:33 left in the first half, when Abdur-Rahkman hit an open 3-pointer. On the Wolverines’ next offensive possession, he drove into the teeth of the Dolphins’ defense and banked in a tough floater.

That shot was indicative of the offensive threat Abdur-Rahkman can be, and it shows how Beilein is trying use him.

“We’re realizing that there’s some things we can stretch in our offense to get him in more downhill situations, and we’re trying to do it daily,” Beilein said. “So, it’s a work in progress, but I want him to take more shots. But that’s my job to get him more opportunities.”

Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) goes to the basket while defended by Jacksonville guard JD Notae (1) in the second half of U-M's 76-51 win on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, at Crisler Center. (Photo: Tony Ding, AP)

Abdur-Rahkmanhasn’t had to take on a aggressive offensive role in his tenure at U-M. Even now, Moritz Wagner and Charles Matthews are the team’s go-to offensive threats. But an aggressive Abdur-Rahkman could add another layer to the Wolverinesas they dig into the heart of Big Ten play in the coming months.

After Wagner went down with a foot injury in the win against Texas, Abdur-Rahkman shouldered a lot of the scoring load and finished with a team-high 17 points.

And again, the points came off aggressive drives, which included an emphatic dunk from Abdur-Rahkman.

“I think we’re really good when he’s aggressive,” said Duncan Robinson. “Just always in attack mode. Because, you know, he’s naturally so unselfish that when he can pick his spots and be aggressive I think it makes us a much better team.”

Saturday, Abdur-Rahkman effectively picked his spots. His aggressiveness spurred U-M’s offense in the second half, as he easily drove through the lane for layups on several different occasions.

All of it came a day after what Beilein said was Abdur-Rahkman’s “worst practice of the year.”

But he‘s playing his best basketball yet with the Big Ten season set to continue on Tuesday at Iowa (7 p.m., ESPN2).

Perhaps it’s because of Beilein’s increased focus on Abdur-Rahkman, or perhaps the senior simply recognizes the kind of impact he can have on the team. Either way,his development couldn’t be coming at a better time for Michigan. 

 

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