PISCATAWAY, N.J. — No. 7 Michigan's offense has scuffled recently. The Wolverines hadn't broken 70 points over the past five games, which included two losses. They averaged just 0.92 points per possession during that stretch. Michigan was on its way to ending that slump after a 43-point first half. Then the shots stopped falling in the second. Still, it was the Wolverines' best offensive performance in nearly a month and enough for a 77-65 road win over Rutgers. Ignas Brazdeikis scored a game-high 23 points and made a career-high five 3s. It wasn't always pretty. But Michigan (21-2 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big Ten, leading Purdue by half a game and No. 9 Michigan State — which lost at Illinois on Tuesday night — by a game. Here are three takeaways: Tuesday's game nearly ended in the opening minutes. That was thanks to a barrage from Michigan, which made its first five shots to take a lead that stood the rest of the game. It was the most efficient offensive performance since Jan. 13, when the Wolverines scored 50 first-half points against Northwestern. Tuesday night, Michigan fired on all cylinders. Brazdeikis scored the team's first eight points and had 14 by halftime. Charles Matthews hit a couple jumpers, while Jordan Poole connected on a pair of 3s. And Zavier Simpson added seven early points. It's been a while since Michigan's trio of leading scorers — Brazdeikis, Matthews, Poole — shot the ball well at the same time. The first half was a reminder of how difficult it is to stop the Wolverines when that happens. As efficient as Michigan was in the first half, the second half was a different story. The Wolverines endured one of their trademark droughts to open the half, missing five of their first seven shots. At one point, Rutgers cut it to seven again. While Michigan struggled to hit shots, the defense buckled down. And Brazdeikis hit timely 3s to stretch it back to double digits. It was far from a clean performance. The Wolverines shot just 32 percent in the second half. That allowed the Scarlet Knights to hang around. But the first-half advantage, defensive stops and several big shots from Brazdeikis proved to be enough. Michigan was favored to win Tuesday, and for good reason. But so was No. 9 Michigan State against Illinois. Michigan's win, coupled with the Spartans' loss, gave the Wolverines first place in the Big Ten. They're up half a game over Purdue and one game over Michigan State. For the first part of conference play, it seemed like it would be Michigan State and Michigan — and then the rest of the conference. But Purdue and Wisconsin are right in it. Maryland lurks. The entire Big Ten is a mess right now, which makes wins like Tuesday's all the more important. For a team gunning for the conference title and top seeding in the NCAA Tournament, every game is a must-win. The ones that should be wins are even more so. The Wolverines have been in good position all season long, and kept themselves there. Contact Orion Sang at email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang . Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter .