...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
1/5/2014 – Michigan 74, Northwestern 51 – 10-4, 2-0 Big Ten
METAPHOR ALERT: Drew Crawford jumping futilely as Stauskas is about to put a dunk on the Wildcats' faces. [Bryan Fuller]
Game. Blouses. [Fuller]
Drew Crawford's been around forever. He's always been too good to be one of those eighth year senior types; players like that generally need to be obscure bench types for a hunk of their career. Crawford was instantly a starter, playing almost 30 minutes as a freshman, so you knew exactly how long Crawford had left and that he would get an extra year with the Wildcats after injury ended what should have been his final season in 2012-13. His presence is not a surprise.
But Drew Crawford's been around forever all the same. This is how long Drew Crawford's been around: he helped pilot a season sweep of Michigan that was depressing but not all that surprising. This was 2010, when Michigan was coming into a year with expectations for the first time ever and sputtered to a 15-17 record. Northwestern beat Michigan twice, and it wasn't particularly close. The combined margin of the two games: Northwestern +21.
As I delved back into game logs from Crawford's career against Michigan I was surprised to find that against Michigan he'd had as many clunkers (2/21/2012: 6 points in 27 minutes) as the maddening why-is-Drew-Crawford-knifing-me-I'm-just-a-merchant outings. I expect Drew Crawford to be maddeningly good and look like perfect fit for Michigan. I expect to write something about how Michigan should follow Bill Carmody around, you know, just in case*.
History says that's confirmation bias. Sometimes Crawford's good, because he's a good player. About half the time he's not much of a factor. I remember the good bits because when he was a freshman and Michigan was getting solidly beaten by the Wildcats, he was dumping in threes.
With Michigan and Northwestern slated to play only once this year, Crawford had to compress his awesome game with his meh one. He duly obliged, scoring 13 in the first half and just four in the second. Not coincidentally, Michigan pulled away in the second half, first pushing the lead out to 12, then enduring a period of sloppy basketball in which Northwestern crept to within 6 before blowing the doors off. Twitter got jumpy about the Wildcats hanging around for a bit there, and not without reason: they were.
But let's reflect on the fact that 2010 is not that long ago, Drew Crawford has not in fact been around forever, and that Michigan is down one Naismith winner, one other NBA first round pick, and their preseason All-American. Northwestern's not a good version of Northwestern, but neither was that Wildcat outfit that swept Michigan back in the day. They went 5-11 in their other Big Ten games.
Meanwhile, Michigan fans were slightly cranky about a game with a Kenpom win percentage chart that looks like this:
I was too, for a bit, but then I thought about Drew Crawford and how Northwestern is still pretty much Northwestern and that Michigan is no longer around, even with Mitch McGary in a suit. After some wobbles early you had to wonder, but after ripping off four straight wins with a couple of quality outings in there, Michigan now seems back on track to be whatever you thought they might be minus their best player.
This is not a smoldering heap. Playing a Northwestern outfit that is provides a reminder that things could be a lot worse.
*[Another excellent reason Michigan should follow Carmody around just to see what he's doing: Imagine Bacari Alexander in a huge black trenchcoat going SHHHHH at anyone who calls him by name as he tries to figure out who Carmody is looking at in this Lakeview gym divided between basketball and a Magic The Gathering tournament. SURPRISE: it's one of the Magic players, and he'll shoot 45% from three for whoever Carmody is scouting for.]
Horford coming into his own. [Fuller]
Let's hear it for center depth. McGary out, Morgan and Horford combine for 38 minutes, 15 points on 11 shot equivalents, and 16 rebounds as Northwestern acquires four OREBs. It was in fact Morgan who kept Michigan solidly in the lead about midway through the first half, and since no one has ever been more enthused about pointing out a good hedge than Shon Morris we got to hear plenty about the various small defensive things both were doing. (Don't take this as a criticism: compare Morris to virtually anyone the BTN has for football. Go Shon Morris.)
I'd forgotten about Morgan's thing where he gets a bucket in most games by running the floor hard after a rebound, and enjoyed its revival in this one. Unfortunately, that also kicked in some other memories of what Morgan tended to do against Northwestern-type teams without large athletic posts (do very well) and what he did against big leapy guys (look overmatched). At least this year when Morgan is not a good matchup they can try Horford, who just went off for 14 points on 6/8 shooting against Minnesota.
I'm still looking at Amir Williams and Adriean Payne with trepidation I would not if McGary was out there; as with the team in general it could be a lot worse.
You did what to who? Northwestern was pretty good about not giving Michigan open threes (6 of 18 on the day), though that came at a stiff price as M shot 63% from inside the arc and acquired 22 FTAs. This was their plan, and it got eviscerated.
But like… at some point in the second half, Spike Albrecht was left utterly alone at the top of the key, and even though it took him a couple seconds to realize that no one was bothering to check him this did not cause a Northwestern dude to, like, check him. He drained a wide open three, his only shot of the day.
something something about how the basketball is The Rock and Walton knows his role [Fuller]
Freshman arriving. Zak Irvin didn't do much with Northwestern aggressively overplaying the three point line. This is fine since his presence helps open up swooping Stauskas drives to the basket, and when Minnesota took a different approach he torched them with 5/8 from behind the line. He's Just A Shooter, and that's fine when he's at 42% on the season—48% in this four game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Walton has started to settle into a third or fourth banana role. His game against Minnesota was more impressive than it appears statistically, as he helped harass the Hollinses into a 4/19 shooting night; against Northwestern he pushed the ball efficiently on the break and penetrated to score or draw fouls; when it wasn't there he kicked it around and let someone else do the heavy lifting. He seems to be finding his niche, and you can slowly expand from there.
Oh look they're passing it to each other how cute. Michigan had a 2 on 0 break with Irvin and Robinson on which Robinson made one very early pass so Irvin could set him up for an alley-oop. This caused Morris to wax about the unselfish play of the team. I saw that a bit differently, as when Robinson passes that ball you know what he is thinking. Everyone does.
Zak Irvin knows what to do not because he has a special bond with GRIII but because he is in Crisler Arena, and everyone knows that if Zak Irvin takes this basketball and lays it in, Glenn Robinson will have a blood vessel burst in his head. He will probably say something along the lines of DO YOU KNOW WHAT I DO FRESHMAN AAAAAAH, so Irvin giving it back is less about charity than it is about self-defense. Which is all well and good because yes we have a two on zero break and Glenn Robinson III, it's time to see something cool. I approve of this entire sequence.
But that first pass came with an implied threat. Let's be real.
Caris. Your mojo. Where did it go? Leaving aside an overmatched Holy Cross squad, LeVert's last three games: one point, four points, seven points. He does have nine assists against four turnovers and five steals in that span, so he is still providing some playmaking and defense; the guy who was taking it to Duke for most of the second half has faded out. He's probably a lot better scouted now and will have to have an adjustment period where he figures out how people are playing him and adapt. Would be nice to get a solid game from him in the near future.
You can see why Carmody got axed, but counterfactuals are fascinating. Q: if Crawford and JerShon Cobb are healthy last year does Northwestern make the tournament? And if so, Carmody keeps his job and then has this team minus Crawford, which goes like 2-16 in the league. Does Carmody then get fired a year after making the tournament for the first time in the history of the program?
Unfortunately, the answer to the first Q is likely "no" since I don't think Crawford and Cobb bring you from 4-14 in the league to a bid, so this is a pointless bullet indeed.
But anyway, yeah, it seems like Carmody had finally run out of magic (the gathering) when it came to scooping up underrated recruits. There's not much on this team, even for Northwestern.
A tip of the hat. Would like to thank the BTN crew for getting "not just a shooter" out of the way quickly. Standing policy should be one "not just at shooter" when he has a pretty assist or thunders to the hoop for a dunk or swooping layup, and then we can all have a little laugh or a shot or whatever as we think about the fact that Nik Stauskas is a white Canadian so we have to say this every time he does something he does all the time—Stauskas's FT rate is nearing the top 100. Then we can move on with the game and acknowledge the fact that Stauskas is approaching elite on offense, in all facets.
On defense… Well, he did help shut down Crawford after halftime, and I'm of the opinion that when he's actually on the ball he does really well these days. Remember Stanford trying to dump it down to a 6'9" guy they'd switched onto Stauskas and getting two heavily contested fade-away misses? Or in this one Crawford making about four different moves before getting off a tough fadeaway that he hit? Stauskas's length is a big asset when he can stay in front of a guy, which is something that he doesn't seem that much worse at than other guys.
The issues come off the ball, mostly, when he gets lost on screens or closes a guy out either late or with his hands down. I think his bad rap in that department is at least partially undeserved, as Michigan does have a pretty good Kenpom defense (38th) without much size (they're about average) or an imposing shotblocker.
The "Game ... Blouses" dunk came early today. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
After a rather aimless first ten minutes, Michigan poured it on against a hapless Northwestern squad, led by Nik Stauskas and an apparently healthy Glenn Robinson III.
The Wildcats were able to hang with the Wolverines early—as a late-arriving, weather-be-damned crowd slowly filtered into Crisler—thanks to the efforts of forward Drew Crawford, who had 13 first-half points, eight of which came in the first 11 minutes; his two-pointer at that juncture made it a 13-12 U-M lead after Nik Stauskas threw down his signature two-handed slam off a beautiful feed from Spike Albrecht. Michigan immediately went on a 6-0 run, and after a Crawford three-pointer ended that streak, the Wildcats could get no closer than six points down the rest of the way.
|GRIII's ankle looks just fine. [Fuller/MGoBlog]|
Much of that was due to Michigan's defense against Crawford, who didn't score in the second half until there were just over five minutes remaining. No other Wildcat could consistently generate offense, and the second half featured the Wolverines stretching a comfortable lead into a full-on blowout.
Stauskas led the way offensively with 18 points scored in a variety of ways—3/5 two-pointers, 2/5 three-pointers, and 6/8 free throws—while also chipping in four rebounds and four assists. Robinson, who looked to be 100% after injuring his ankle in Thursday's win over Minnesota, scored eight of his 12 points in the second half as the team was able to get out in transition; he played a big part in that, playing active defense up top and helping shut down Crawford on that end.
In the early going, it was actually Jordan Morgan who stood out offensively, scoring eight points while hitting all three of his attempts—including a slick baseline baby hook. Morgan had a quiet second half, but Jon Horford stepped up and continued to produce at the five, getting six of his seven points in the latter stanza. Each big man pulled down eight rebounds and kept Northwestern seven-footer Alex Olah very quiet until the game was out of hand.
Derrick Walton also had a solid showing, taking advantage of Dave Sobolewski's, um, attempts to play defense by repeatedly blowing by him en route to 11 points on 3/4 FGs and and 5/6 FTs. Spike Albrecht only attempted one shot—a made three when Northwestern left him all alone at the top of the key—while making his presence felt as a passer, dishing out four assists to tie Stauskas for the team lead.
After the first ten minutes, the Wildcats simply had no answer for Michigan's combination of size and talent; the Wolverines dominated the boards (29.2 OReb% to NW's 13.3%), won the turnover battle, and shot 65.5% from inside the arc. Michigan did what they were supposed to do against a bad Northwestern squad; perhaps more importantly, it appears Robinson—who threw down two impressive dunks this afternoon—is back to full strength.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Northwestern|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -14 (KenPom)|
Right: Is "hitting hardwood bottom" a term? If so, it applies to Northwestern and Dave Sobolewski.
Northwestern's first season with former Duke assistant Chris Collins at the helm is off to a rough start; the Wildcats are 7-7 with no quality wins, two very bad losses, and they opened Big Ten play by getting pasted by 27 points at home against Wisconsin—the halftime score of that game was 40-14.
6'5" redshirt senior forward Drew Crawford, who missed most of last season with a torn labrum, is easily Northwestern's best player now that he's back at full strength. Despite his stature, he's the team's best rebounder on both ends of the floor, and the offense leans on him heavily—he takes nearly 30% of the team's shots when he's on the court. Almost 70% of those shots are jumpers, per hoop-math, and his shooting percentages reflect that: he's hitting just 44% of his twos while connecting on 39% of his threes, and he doesn't get to the line at a high rate—when he does, he shoots 81% there.
The next-highest usage Wildcat is 6'1" point guard Dave Sobolewski, whose junior year isn't going too well:
Dave Sobolewski's No. 1 basketball skill is exaggerating contact
— Sippin' on Purple (@sippinonpurple) December 28, 2013
It's worth noting that I have no idea what Dave Sobolewski's No. 2 basketball skill is.
— Sippin' on Purple (@sippinonpurple) December 28, 2013
On the plus side, he's got a very impressive free throw rate. On the negative side is, well, just about everything else: Sobolewski has hit 17-of-44 twos and just 11 of his team-high 59 three-point attempts, his assist and turnover rates are just about equal, and his offensive rating is a cringe-worthy 80.7—if Dave Sobolewski was a team, he'd rank seven points per 100 possessions behind last-place Grambling nationally.
Flanking Sobolewski in the backcourt is 6'4" junior JerShon Cobb, a solid outside shooter (37.5 3P%) who takes a ton of two-point jumpers (44% of his shots) that he makes at a paltry 25% clip; when he manages to get to the rim, he's a very efficient finisher, but that hasn't happened often this season. Cobb is a solid defensive rebounder for a guard—though, oddly, a complete non-factor on the offensive glass—and he distributes the ball pretty well.
Glenn Robinson III's status for tomorrow is officially questionable; if there's a game for him to miss, though, it's this one, as the 6'5" Crawford is Northwestern's nominal power forward, and the starting three—redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin—is also listed at 6'5". Lumpkin provides decent rebounding and a solid 55.6 eFG%; he's also Northwestern's lowest-usage regular and, considering his lack of touches, a bit of a turnover machine.
The most intruiging matchup of this game will be Michigan's bigs against seven-foot center Alex Olah, whose season can be encapsulated in his last two games: after fouling out in just 12 minutes against DePaul while failing to record a point, he was the team's lone bright spot against the Badgers, scoring 25 points on 10/12 shooting with six rebounds (four offensive) and two blocks. Aside from the Wisconsin game, he's struggled against decent competition while having his best outings against the likes of Gardner Webb and Mississippi Valley State. He's most consistent as a rim protector, posting a block rate just outside the top 100 in the country.
The most notable reserve is 6'2" guard Tre Demps, who's third on the team in scoring, mostly on the strength of his 38% three-point shooting. He's much less effective inside the arc (42%) and doesn't add much to the box score otherwise. 6'7" forwards Nathan Taphorn and Kale Abrahamson also provide decent outside shooting off the bench; both take the lion's share of their shots from long range.
The Wildcats have only defeated two teams in KemPom's top 250, and those were home victories against middling teams: #149 Western Michigan and #192 Brown. They've been handled easily by the quality teams on their schedule—Stanford, Mizzou, UCLA, NC State, and Wisconsin—and have two ugly home losses on their resume to #150 Illinois State and #132 DePaul.
Four factors (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||47.5 (242)||17.2 (96)||25.8 (317)||40.6 (165)|
|Defense||45.7 (64)||16.1 (300)||28.2 (51)||41.9 (201)|
Pretty much the only good thing Northwestern does offensively is not turn the ball over; they're equally ineffective shooting from inside and outside the arc, don't hit the offensive glass, and don't get to the line frequently—they're also getting an astounding 14.5% of their two-point attempts blocked. Unsurprisingly, they rank 262nd in offensive efficiency on KemPom.
The defense is statistically pretty decent—61st in defensive efficiency—though that appears to be due to a litany of terrible non-conference opponents; Mizzou, UCLA, NC State, and Wisconsin each scored at least 1.15 points per possession against the 'Cats.
Get Olah away from the hoop. Olah is Northwestern's only real shot-blocker, not to mention the team's only viable big man—his backup, 6'9" senior Nikola Cerina, isn't nearly as good a rebounder or defender and he's currently posting a mind-blowingly bad 61.7 ORtg. With Michigan's size advantage on the perimeter, running lots of pick-and-rolls with Jon Horford or Jordan Morgan as the screener should get Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert good looks at the rim while also putting pressure on Olah to stay out of foul trouble.
Step up, Irvin. If GRIII can't give it a go tomorrow, the onus likely falls on Zak Irvin to match up with Drew Crawford defensively. While he's certainly got the size to defend Crawford, Irvin will need to focus more on the defensive glass than he has all season—not the easiest task since Crawford can step out and shoot from distance.
Run, run, run. Northwestern plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, but they miss so many jump shots that there should be oppotunities for Michigan to push the pace even though the Wildcats prioritize transition defense over offensive rebounding. The results of turning up the heat are two-fold: Michigan can get some easy baskets on the fast break and a high-paced game could tire out a thin Northwestern front line. It all starts with Horford and Morgan; while their rebounding acumen isn't in question, neither has shown the same outlet passing ability as Mitch McGary, and getting the ball to the guards with alacrity will be key to getting upcourt in a hurry.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 14
On the status of Glenn Robinson III’s ankle injury: “I can’t give you much of an update. He had rehab all day yesterday. We’ll know more tomorrow, but we really don’t know right now.
On whether or not it’s a long-term injury: “We’ll know more. I’m not sure. We’ll have to just wait and see. We’d love to see him out on the court tomorrow. You and I and everyone else can find out tomorrow.”
“The young man, he eats right, he trains right, he’s in the gym all the time,” Beilein said. “I couldn’t be happier for any player ever that I’ve coached.”
I bet 2014 won't get rabies and try to kill me!
Let's have one more official reiteration: if the "2013 Must Die" meme shall go forth to the greater internet, let's all be on the same page as to its meaning.
Bronxblue in the Best & Worst* season finale:
While I contend any year when one of your major programs plays in the national championship game and has a player win all of the national POY awards can’t be that bad, the struggles by football and hockey were unexpectedly traumatic.
LSA's 2013 eulogy:
First, allow me to focus on the positive, for it wasn’t all gloom.
Ron Utah's bowl aftermath:
This sums-up our 2013 season
No. For that 2013 gif to be 2013 first you'd need a small child standing by who will be cured of cancer if he manages to break open 10 or more coconuts. The first four would explode, the fifth would almost, and only then would he start slamming his fist on the I-beam and such. Once it's clear he can't get to 10 it'll begin to rain and he'll get one to just barely crack, and that'll be Northwestern. And he'll have a perfect shot at a dark, evil, cancer-loving coconut but it'll rebound and defeat him.
The possibility for good is what separates a bunch of crappy things from real tragedy. 2008 was a bunch of crappy things. 2013 was soul-devouring tragedy. Without the plausible hope of McGary, or a triumvirate of elite commits, or offensive line improvement, or a sweep in Boston, there's no dong to be punched. Putting down a rabid offensive coordinator is one thing; sweet Heiko crying tears for the inarguably good guy he interviewed as he points a shotgun toward the cage is quite another.
Actually if you're looking for a good 2013 analogy, let's go back to the beginning of the season and Eye of the Tiger's comparison to A Game of Thrones. First you come to love the Starks and their dire wolves and their quaint ways, and believe in their mission of protecting mankind from the evils beyond the wall while we wait for dragons to show up and unite everybody. Then they are (SPOILER:) systematically raped, tortured, disfigured, and murdered by a world full of sociopaths. Dennis Norfleet is Aria: you like this character, huh? Okay we'll just leave her out of an entire book then.
* [Warning: The first two Gallon highlight links go to game reels that both begin with our defense getting shredded.]
We have subs but this is crazy. Inside the Box Score isn't a fan of Michigan's defensive substitutions:
|The most mystifying thing about the 2013 defense was QWash's disappearance from it.|
On the first drive of the game, I saw numerous subs get into the game. Are you telling me that our guys are getting tired 10 minutes into the game? I want the best guys out there who give us the best chance to win. I want guys to get into the flow of the game, read the queues and start figuring out the offense. Instead, there is a constant revolving door where guys are being shuttled in and out before they get a chance to get into the flow of the game or break a sweat and they spend more energy sprinting to and fro the sideline than they do playing the game.
It's nice to go into 2014 with the 2nd team all having lots of reps, but it's a small nice with a downside of starters who aren't progressing.
By now Ross and Morgan and Wilson ought to be going all game, and the DL starters coming out only when they need a spell. The best line play Mattison ever got was when he was forced to roll with Martin and RVB all game and those two developed such a rapport that they could toy with offenses. "Everybody plays" was great for guys like me in Little League, but there's a reason teams stop doing that at about a middle school competitive level.
The other thing from the box score is Quinton Washington's continued absence. The most plausible explanation is Mattison thought to roll with penetrators against spread-to-run offenses. If that's true, it's more evidence that nobody on this staff even understands that offense, which bane is a two-gapping, double-team-swallowing nose tackle.
Etc. Hockey goal-by-goal analysis and poll updates. Great diary from JeepinBen wherein Fielding Yost reminds us not to listen to Sparties who can't fathom why people in their home state root for the other team in their home state. Course after this season I'm kind of wondering myself.
Photo via Marilyn Indahl/USA TODAY Sports
It looked for all the world like a road loss. Zak Irvin, with just five made shots, led the team in scoring. Nik Stauskas finished just 3/7 from the field. Glenn Robinson III left the game early in the second half with an apparent ankle injury, finishing with six points. Caris LeVert played easily his worst game of the year. Michigan was outrebounded by a whopping 44.1% to 17.9% on the offensive glass. Oh, and Minnesota's last-gasp shot even caught the backboard.
Somehow, some way, the Wolverines clawed their way to a three-point win to open Big Ten play. Irvin's five three-pointers on eight attempts kept Michigan in the game after Robinson fell awkwardly following his fourth block of the night; while GRIII eventually returned from the locker room, he never re-entered the game. While Stauskas struggled from the field, he made play after play down the stretch, dishing out a game-high seven assists—including two in the waning minutes to set up Jon Horford dunks—and throwing down his signature "Game ... Blouses" dunk to give the team a late three-point lead.
With Jordan Morgan in early foul trouble and Mitch McGary spectating in a suit, Horford came up huge, scoring 14 points on 6/8 shooting and pulling down nine rebounds—five more than anyone else on the team—while adding in two steals and a block. While Horford made a few defensive errors guarding Elliott Eliason, who finished with ten points and ten rebounds, his tireless effort in the middle was the difference in this game.
Minnesota took advantage of Horford's occasional mishap and Robinson's absence on the interior, but they couldn't get it going on the perimeter, hitting just five of 19 three-point attempts. They had a tough time finding a clean look on the outside, and Michigan also forced 15 turnovers, eight of those steals.
The end of the game got a little nerve-wracking, to say the least, as the officials initially botched an out-of-bounds call—not to mention missing at least one obvious foul—when Minnesota tried to pressure Stauskas down three points with 22 seconds remaining. While Michigan got the ball back after a review, they ended up with Derrick Walton going to the line instead of Stauskas, and Walton missed both free throws. Fortunately for Michigan, the Gophers' Andre Hollins couldn't tie it up on the next possession, and a Horford free throw extended the lead to four.
Even then, the game wasn't quite over, as Stauskas committed the cardinal sin of fouling a jump shooter, stepping under Malik Smith on a wayward three-point attempt. Smith drilled all three freebies with six seconds remaining to make it a 61-60 game; after a pair of Stauskas free throws, the Gophers had one last chance to tie with five seconds to play. Deandre Mathieu managed to get a decent shot for the tie on the run at the top of the key; to the considerable relief of Wolverines with still-raw wounds from Evan Turner and Ben Brust, Mathieu's prayer wasn't answered.
It wasn't pretty, and there's lingering concern about Robinson's health to boot, but it's tough to overstate the importance of a conference road win for this team. Michigan is 1-0 in the Big Ten (and UNDEFEATED IN 2014) after a game in which the tired coachspeak platitude of "facing adversity" very much applied. Not a bad start to the new year.