2/8/2014 – Michigan 67, Iowa 85 – 17-6, 9-2 Big Ten
Did you know it took like three hundred years for people to agree that they should not spell a lower-case F like they spell a lower case S?
I know it seems obvious enough that some under-typeface apprentice would eventually get into a life-threatening slap-fight with the over-apprentice about this issue, but the only people they could relate this life or death issue to were their immediate family. Since everyone got wiped out every five years by the epidemic du jour, the end result was a bunch of corpses and no progress towards anything resembling sense in written language. Which of course brings me to "welp."
"Welp" is unique amongst internet utterances, and that makes me love it. "Welp" is an expression of fatalism in the face of disaster. It maintains no sense of irony, mitigation, or aloofness. To say it is to say "this hurt me, and it is unfair and stupid, and now I am moving on."
Compare that to any other sentiment expressed by an internet meme in an effort to find a better one, like, morally. Go on. Go ahead. I submit that you have not found anything even in that category, let alone competing with it.
And this, of course, brings me to opponent three point shooting.
Michigan's defense is sinking like a stone in Big Ten and national rankings, and deservedly. When Roy Devyn Marble pulled up for an open transition three after a Michigan make, fuming was an appropriate response. (Silent fuming, or at least just twitter fuming.) Caris LeVert was standing next to Glenn Robinson in the paint; there was no reason whatsoever for a clearly-dangerous Marble to not be a priority.
But even so, come on man. A week after Yogi Ferrell was 8/9 from three, Marble was 6/10 and started 6/7; as a team, Iowa shot 59%. They started out 9/12. One game earlier, Iowa went 3 of 20 against Ohio State. They're dead last in threes attempted in the league for a reason.
In between these two games, Michigan bombed the Cornhuskers back to the stone age. I'm ready for basketball to resume being a game instead of an exercise in flipping a coin to see who gets a face-eating bear dropped on them. To some extent, you just have to say this hurt me and is stupid and let's move on.
To some extent. Michigan's latest struggle has further exposed Michigan's defense as a problem that is not going away. Michigan typically sticks Caris LeVert on the opposition's most dangerous perimeter player, and this has not gone at all well the past month. Michigan turned off Terran Petteway in their laugher, and Purdue does not have a dangerous perimeter player. The other three most dangerous players went off:
Gary Harris: 27 points, 5/9 from 2, 4/6 from three.
Yogi Ferrell: 27 points, 7/8 from 3.
Roy Devyn Marble: 26 points, 6/10 from three.
The thing that made Trey Burke Trey Burke is his general refusal to be removed from the gameplan. It happened, mostly against Aaron Craft. When it happened Burke would fume with hatred until he could stab his nemesis in the face. Sometimes that took a few weeks, as when Burke had 16 points, eight assists, and gave Aaron Craft in last year's OSU rematch. Sometimes it happened on the other side of halftime—ask Kansas.
So here it is for Stauskas. Is it going to be "welp, I guess somebody does put baby in the corner," or is it going to be a rain of hellfire upon all those who presume to check Nik The Great And Powerful? And here it is for LeVert: is it going to be "welp, that three went in" or is opponent going to get off a good three over your dead body?
It is crunch time. Let's see some lip curl.
GET YOUR HANDS UP. It was one thing for LeVert to play frustratingly far off the lightning-quick Ferrell, because Ferrell does just go by guys in a flash. Marble is good, but not that good, and open look after open look just got handed to him by miscommunication and other things. Caris has a bad habit of being in position with his hands down that practically invites guys to raise up over him.
Time to acknowledge reality. Devolving offensive responsibility from Stauskas is painful partially because it turns Glenn Robinson into a guy who's trying to create off the bounce. This doesn't work well very often. Against Iowa it was a complete disaster, as he had 4 TOs against one assist and was 1/7 from the floor. A couple of those were open looks generated by his teammates; the rest were heavily contested jacks.
There was one particularly illuminating possession on which Robinson gingerly prodded at whichever 6'9" guy was checking him and then dumped it off to Walton with the shot clock ticking down. One lightning-quick Walton crossover later he was in the lane getting fouled. Robinson had just tried a similar move; in comparison his looked like he was executing it in a tar pit.
Robinson can do good work coming off curl screens and on cuts, but the only time he should dribble in an effort to score the basket is off a post-up. This is completely fine as long as the team acknowledges GRIII's strengths and weaknesses and plays to them accordingly.
At least Irvin's heating up. 19 points for Irvin in 22 minutes, 4/5 from three, and he was able to take the ball to the hole in transition a couple times. He's slowly diversifying his game, and he does shoot a lot. He's putting up 27% of Michigan's shots when he's on the floor, and his eFG% is near 60%.
Emphasis on "slowly," though. Irvin still does almost nothing other than shoot in a box score. This is the third straight game he's recorded neither a TO or assist; he's got one assist in Big Ten play.
Crushed in McGary stats. Iowa blew Michigan out on the boards with 15 offensive rebounds. That's not a huge surprise against the fee-fi-fo-fum Hawkeyes. Worse is Michigan forcing only 7 TOs and losing steals 9-3. That is an 11 shot advantage handed the Hawkeyes; that's how you give up 1.33 PPP.
This was a game in which Michigan did really miss Mitch. Morgan only got 15 minutes and had zero defensive rebounds; Horford was better but still eh.
Caris steps up, again. As frustrating as LeVert's game was defensively, he was really, really good on offense, with 22 points on 17 shot equivalents. He's not in Stauskas's class as a distributor and he's not as efficient of a shooter, but he is a fine second option. It's just the "second" bit that needs work.
This guy. I knew we were in trouble as soon as this guy.
That guy is a mobile home court advantage. I wish to hire him to do his thing whenever I post something.
Shooter [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
After consecutive makes from beyond the arc, everyone in the building save one man within earshot of the press area knew Zak Irvin was putting up another one. "Shoot it!" implored the fan, who must not have caught a Michigan basketball game until today.
Irvin needed no such encouragement, firing away and getting a friendly bounce off the front of the rim for his third triple in as many possessions to give the Wolverines a 28-point lead over Nebraska—with 3:35 still remaining in the first half. Irvin had already scored all 16 of his points by that juncture, hitting four of his seven first-half 3PA (he missed two in the second).
It'd be one thing if Irvin's outburst stood out as particularly unusual; it's another matter entirely when the whole team plays at that level. Glenn Robinson III led the team with 23 points (5/7 2-pt, 3/7 3-pt) while adding five rebounds and two steals. Caris LeVert finished with 16 points (2/3 2-pt, 3/4 3-pt) after opening the game with an alley-oop pass to Robinson followed by consecutive three-pointers. Nik Stauskas only attempted three shots; he still finished with nine points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
Excluding the first four minutes of the game, Michigan peaked at 1.51 points per possession a couple minutes into the second half; they'd finish at an impressive 1.26 despite scoring four points in the final ten minutes. Their eFG% reached as high as 85.7 late in the first half before finishing at a mere 62.5. They led by 41 (41!) at two different points in the second half before slowly phasing out the starters.
On the other end, Michigan stymied Nebraska's offense, limiting them to 0.81 points per trip with a 39.8 eFG%. Until the extended wind-down period, the Wolverines were on pace for their best efficiency margin in conference play in the KenPom era. By halftime, this one was over, and attention could be turned to more important matters, like certain former players in attendance:
L to R: Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner, Will Campbell [Fuller]
It was a laugher, to be sure, and a great way to bounce back from the team's first conference defeat.
Derrick Walton continues to round out his game impressively. His eight points (1/2 2-pt, 2/5 3-pt) and three assists don't leap off the stat sheet, but Michigan didn't need him to do a whole lot tonight. In addition to hitting a couple spot-up shots from beyond the arc, he had a very aggressive fast break finish early in the first half—his improvement running the fast break is apparent and continues to pay dividends.
Glenn Robinson III had as close to a "quiet" 23 points as one is going to get; this is largely because he scored 12 in the second half when the game was no longer competitive. He got his outside shooting game going, hit his favorite free-throw pull-up jumper, and finished with authority on the break for the game's first basket. He also did impressive work defensively, helping hold Nebraska's leading scorer, Terran Petteway, to just five points on 2/10 shooting and matching Petteway's three defensive rebounds with three offensive boards.
Spike Albrecht didn't score, though he still made an impact with four assists, including an alley-oop toss to Jon Horford (7 points, 3/5 FG, 2 REBs) which marked the precise moment this game should no longer have been played. Jordan Morgan played 20 minutes without recording a point, hauling in four rebounds (all defensive) while helping limit the Huskers to a 22.5 OReb%.
Indiana took down Michigan on Sunday due to two things: their pick-and-roll defense, explained in excellent detail by both UMHoops and Inside The Hall today, and Yogi Ferrell's blitzkrieg from beyond the arc (video courtesy of ITH):
After taking a closer look at the film, much of the blame for Ferrell's 7/8 performance can be attributed to mistakes by Michigan, though bad luck and simply great shooting also played a big role. It's time for some picture pages, gut-punch by gut-punch.
Click all the images for a full-size view.
Indiana runs a simple weave on the perimeter, with Ferrell dribbling from the top of the key over to Will Sheehey on the wing; Ferrell hands it off to Sheehey. Something is already amiss here, as both Derrick Walton (originally guarding Ferrell) and Glenn Robinson III (Sheehey) are both focusing on Sheehey and have stopped moving their feet:
Sheehey smartly takes one dribble towards the hoop, cutting off Walton's route back out to Ferrell while forcing Robinson to prevent the drive instead of switch onto Ferrell:
Ferrell gets a perfect look at the basket as Walton is far too out of position to recover:
What happened? Obvious miscommunication/confusion between Walton and GRIII, for starters. Walton expects a switch; GRIII expects Walton to continue following Ferrell. Considering Walton had an easy path to stick with Ferrell and no screen was involved, I'm inclined to believe this was his mistake.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
2/2/2013 – Michigan 52, Indiana 63 – 16-5, 8-1 Big Ten
Stauskas was barely involved, but they don't take pictures of guys hanging around at the three point line. [Chris Howell/Hoosier Scoop]
There was a second-half possession on which Nik Stauskas stood in the corner and watched, hands on hips. Zak Irvin—this team has more guys apparently missing a C in their names than any in the country, where is that on Kenpom—banged in a three pointer that I barely noticed before it went in, because I was distressed and looking at Stauskas to rescue things. He did not.
The only thing that was unique about this particular possession was the hands. The standing eventually became standard. This was because Yogi Ferrell, Indiana's lightning quick, generously-listed-at-six-foot-even point guard, was guarding him. Ferrell started out in much the same way as Gary Harris did, denying heavily on the perimeter, and for whatever reason back cuts against this behavior are infrequent nowadays. Michigan did not even attempt one. When Stauskas did get the ball he felt harried enough to dump it to someone else most of the time.
Stauskas was effectively shut off for most of the first half until late, when he attempted to back Ferrell down on one possession, and drive by him on another. The post-up resulted in a shot that was well off; the drive ended with a charge call as Stauskas extended his arm.
And that was that, really.
I thought that Stauskas would be pissed and Beilein would do something to get his star into the game. Over the past couple years, Michigan has an excellent track record when it comes to storming out of the locker room at the half and putting it on the opponent. There was not a hint of that in this game. The second half largely followed the first. Other than a couple of nice passes, Stauskas's contribution was limited to a couple of jacked late-clock shots and the standing around.
In Stauskas's stead, things fell on LeVert, Walton, and Robinson, far less efficient players who went about the business of being less efficient.
This was massively frustrating. Cat-quick or not, ball screens require hard decisions on the part of a defense. When Michigan did get into the Stauskas pick and roll offense a couple times in the second half, Michigan got quality looks at the basket. I have a ton of faith in John Beilein's overall genius because I have eyes frequently applied to basketball games, and seeing the lack of answers on his part was distressing. So, too, was Stauskas's growing passivity.
This was the second time this year that Stauskas had been eliminated from the offense. The first time was against Duke, and that was another listless loss where Michigan was tagging along behind the opponent with a series of LeVert drives that never seemed like they would come together into the surge Michigan needed to take the lead. Cut off the head and the rest of the team flails; unlike Trey Burke, opponents have shown an ability to do that with Stauskas.
Whether that's because of an inherent difference in their attitudes or just the fact that Burke brought the ball up most of the time while Stauskas gets involved in the offense after lining up on the wing, I don't know, but somehow, some way Michigan has to get the ball in the right hands. They are not good enough on defense to get away with nights featuring six shots from the man.
One call. I didn't have much problem with the refereeing in this one despite it being an Assembly Hall game. There were a couple of things each way that were wrong, sure. I was too busy being incensed about Stauskas's lack of involvement to really get any lather up about officiating.
But, man, if Derrick Walton gets what looked like a blazingly obvious charge call on Ferrell, this game changes significantly. That would have been Ferrell's second, knocking him out for about eight minutes, both freeing up Stauskas and removing 85% of Indiana's offense. I'm not sure what else Walton is supposed to do there: he was moving with Ferrell, square to the shooter, and got plowed in the chest. Ferrell got the same call a few minutes later, and it was the right one.
I have no idea what a charge is anymore, so I am now qualified to referee college basketball.
(The other thing that drove me nuts was Michigan getting a blocking call on a flop a few minutes after Indiana's flop didn't draw one.)
Our defensive stopper isn't stopping anything of late. LeVert draws the opposition's best perimeter scorer, and the results have been grim. Ferrell blazed the nets in this one, as did Gary Harris in the MSU game. While Purdue's guards didn't do much, they are Purdue.
After Ferrell's third late clock shot I started getting really frustrated with LeVert allowing Ferrell to take virtually uncontested jumpers, and then thought back to last year's Wisconsin game… why doesn't LeVert ever get a hand in anyone's face? He's six inches taller than Ferrell, he should be able to contest his shots. Instead there's a lack of awareness that leads to plenty of rise-and-fire threes that look like bad shots until you see the replay.
This could have been a super-ugly win you exhale and mutter something about road games after, except Indiana kept hitting shots they had to jack up with about two seconds on the shot clock. (This was a glacial 55 possession game.) Michigan's problem is that they let Indiana look like Jordan Taylor-era Wisconsin; almost all of their late jacked shots were actually decent looks. Compare that to the three Stauskas had to take from about 30 feet.
[Chris Howell/Hoosier Scoop]
Morgan up, except for the one thing. Jordan Morgan had an excellent game with ten rebounds, five of them offensive, to go with two blocked shots and two makes. His miss was blocked by Vonleh and immediately put back up by Morgan for two. His rotation on defense was part of the many, many late-clock situations Indiana found itself in, and the resulting makes were not really on him. He was pretty great.
The main exception, of course, was the free throw line, where Morgan was 1 of 5 with a critical missed front end late. That dropped his season percentage almost ten points and as the clock ticked down it was impossible to not look at Michigan's score and add in the missing two or three points even though the team's overall percentage at the line was about average.
Walton: improving, verging on improved. Thirteen points, six of them at the line. Walton's FT percentage has gone up six points in the last couple games and he's consistently chipping double digits more often than not. He's still not up to the task of taking over games in the fashion Michigan needed with Stauskas marginalized, but at this point a solidly productive night is the expectation.
Taking over games… is just not in the cards for GRIII. Like the Duke game, when Michigan was out of its element in the second half the burden fell on Caris. This was due in part to two or three ugly possessions earlier when Robinson tried to create and ended up with a bad shot or a turnover. Chastened, Robinson receded into the background again unless there was a transition opportunity.
It just is what it is. Robinson's NBA draft hype was always built on his ability to jump really high, not his skill level.
Spike limitations. This was a bad, bad matchup for Albrecht. He came in, got smoked a couple times by Ferrell, and then got yanked. He had a period of time in the second half where both he and Walton were in; he chased someone else around.
Derrick Walton played perhaps the best game of his career [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
Michigan fans worried about a sloppy, letdown performance after the Wolverines emerged unscathed from a brutal three-game stretch had a portion of their worst fears realized. They committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers tonight, including gaffes on three straight first-half possessions to give Purdue a brief one-point edge.
That didn't last long, however, as the home team simply couldn't miss against a porous Boilermakers defense. The final numbers: 21/33 from two and 7/13 from three for a remarkable 68.5 eFG%. Purdue managed to win the turnover and rebounding battles but few teams could've kept pace with Michigan's shooting this evening.
"We did just a wonderful job of getting good shots and doing just enough to win," said John Beilein in the postgame radio interview, and he may have been understating matters.
The backcourt essentially called their own shots all night. Nik Stauskas scored 16 points on 5/10 FGs, including an explosive blow-by reverse layup late in the first half and a couple now-signature pull-up jumpers in the second. Caris LeVert recorded his first career double-double with 14 points (5/11 FG), 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and two blocks; his highlights included a LeBron-esque jump stop layup plus the foul and a coast-to-coast layup off his own steal.
Then there was Derrick Walton, who built upon his career-high 19 points against Michigan State with a 14-point effort on just seven shots, of which he missed one, while also chipping in three assists and two steals. He looked more confident than ever working the pick and roll, getting to the basket routinely—big man butterfingers robbed him of a couple more assists. After AJ Hammons committed a lane violation on the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left in the first half, Walton made Purdue pay dearly by covering the length of the court—splitting two defenders in the process—and finishing at the buzzer before Hammons could react to give Michigan a six-point halftime lead.
LeVert [left, Upchurch] and Stauskas [right, Fuller] both got whatever they wanted offensively.
By the second half, it seemed like Michigan's players were trying to one-up each other's plays. Walton dove into the lane and suddenly scooped a pass to a trailing Jordan Morgan, who finished with a layup for two of his 11 points. LeVert followed with his Olympic long jump tryout. Stauskas knocked down a heavily contested jumper from the stripe. Jon Horford worked his way into the paint and hit a turnaround fade away for two of his four points on the night. Zak Irvin responded to a Hammons dunk with a nothing-but-net triple from the wing.
Even though Michigan never played fully within themselves—the split their 16 turnovers evenly between the first and second halves—their ability to create and make good shots* was on full display. They were lucky that their worst turnover performance of the season by both rate and number came against an overmatched opponent; at the same time, it's tough to complain when they still managed to score 1.17 points per possession.
Caris LeVert made up for his four turnovers with some impressive transition defense, including two blocks (though Purdue recovered for a putback after one) and a clean strip that forced the Boilermakers to take the ball out of bounds after a two-on-one break. He used his length exceptionally on both ends in this one, consistently getting his hands on the ball whether it was in an opponent's hands or caroming off the rim.
Glenn Robinson III was a relative non-factor as the only starter to not score in double digits, finishing with eight points on six shots—though he did hit his first three-pointer since January 14th—and three rebounds in 36 minutes. He managed to get to the rim off a nice jab-step in an isolation situation, however, which was a good sign after a couple games in which he created very little in the halfcourt.
Spike Albrecht only played seven minutes due to Walton's superb outing, especially since Walton also played exceptional on-ball defense in this one, holding Terone Johnson to just four points (2/6 FG) and two assists to two turnovers. Spike made the most of his limited time, however, hitting his first layup in Big Ten play and draining a three-pointer on his only attempts.
The defense played well as a unit, forcing Hammons to work hard for his 16 points (7/14 FG), and the combination of Morgan and Horford limited him to just one offensive rebound; the guards contributed some nice help defense on him from the weak side, especially in the first half. (Nik Stauskas had three blocks all on this type of action if memory serves.) The team had issues boxing out, however, as Purdue rebounded 16 of their 37 misses (39%); while that's Purdue's M.O., it was still a weak area in an otherwise strong defensive performance.
*In Stauskas' case, just about any shot is a good shot.
John Beilein, with 4:01 left, more enraged than he's been since Costco raised the price of tube socks:
John Beilein, 1:33 of game time later:
John Beilein is Walter White if Walter White is also Benjamin Button and boy did this sentence get convoluted in a hurry.
Also, note Michigan's 8-0 run over that span. Coaches, if you have the self-control to not lose your mind at every opportunity, the moments when you completely lose your mind have a much greater impact. This is the Law of Beilein, and I'm totally not basing it on one piece of circumstantial evidence. Nope.
[Hit THE JUMP for Nik Stauskas, more Nik Stauskas, various reactions to Nik Stauskas, and a whole lot more from the last two games.]