MAAR probably gets a pass for not contesting this one.
I regret responding to this with "that's easy enough":
I went back through the UCLA game and charted each three-point attempt by both teams save for the last couple minutes of garbage time. The no-late-heavy shot contest system is relatively self-explanatory and looks at how well the defender guarded the shot attempt. Heavy contest shots, especially from beyond the arc, are bad ideas; late contest is enough of an opening to get a good look but isn't completely wide open; no contest is wide the hell open.
When breaking it down by halves, the story of the game emerges:
|No Contest||Late Contest||Heavy Contest|
|Michigan (1st Half)||3/4||7/10||2/2|
|Michigan (2nd Half)||0/1||2/6||0/1|
|UCLA (1st Half)||5/6||5/6||0/2|
|UCLA (2nd Half)||3/3||3/4||0/2|
I expected a bit more NBA Jam (i.e. drilling heavily contested shots) in UCLA's first-half results; instead, I saw a series of errors that led to good looks, and those errors got way worse in the second half. Meanwhile, Michigan's offense stopped generating easy looks beyond the arc in the second half at the same time they cooled off on tougher shots.
[Hit THE JUMP for blood, oh god, so much blood.]
fair enough, Lonzo Ball
Michigan made 12 first-half three-pointers, only five short of the school record for an entire game. The Wolverines rebounded four of their ten missed shots in the half. They held a turbo-charged UCLA squad to two fast-break points.
Lonzo Ball pulled up from just inside the midcourt logo and tied the game at 50 as the half expired. Michigan had played a best-case scenario half and the Bruins matched them shot for shot. UCLA made ten threes themselves in the opening stanza. Only one team was equipped to sustain such a pace.
TJ Leaf, the former Michigan recruit, gave the Bruins the lead on the first possession of the second half, and they never lost it. This spectacular sequence from Ball and center Ike Onigbonu, who filled in more than capably for injured starter Thomas Welsh, stretched the lead to eight:
Alford and Leaf would push it to double digits with back-to-back buckets. Michigan made a couple mini-runs to get as close as five but they never had a shot to tie the game over the last 17:58. As the Wolverines offense sputtered, UCLA's continued to roar; the Bruins connected on 20-for-29 from the field in the second half while Michigan only went 10-for-29.
An impressive performance by Zak Irvin—who had 18 points, five rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and only one turnover—went for naught. Derrick Walton had another quiet performance, going 2-for-7 from the field for nine points with two assists and two turnovers, and if Michigan hoped to keep pace, they needed both their senior leaders to be lights-out tonight. One was, one wasn't. That isn't exactly a surprise to anyone who's followed their careers.
Michigan wasn't good enough to beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. That they hung with them for a half was impressive in and of itself, even if the second half left a feeling of demoralization. The Wolverines aren't an elite team this year; we knew that. The Bruins may be one; they've certainly looked the part. If Beilein's squad can keep up their early-season defense—judging that based on tonight is harsh, to say the least—and sprinkle in a little more of tonight's first-half shooting, they just might be a pretty good team themselves. Getting good performances from both their seniors at once would help; thus far, those games have been few and far between.
Not great. pic.twitter.com/DzuujyGixt
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) November 23, 2016
Sometimes it's not your day.
Zak Irvin had the worst performance of his career, fouling out with five points on 2-for-13 shooting and eight turnovers. The rest of the team followed suit. Michigan shot 19.2% from the field and 7.7% from beyond the arc, and no, those are not typos. They had two assists and 16 turnovers. Derrick Walton hit both of Michigan's three-pointers; they were separated by 32:10 of game time.
Sindarius Thornwell was everywhere for South Carolina, posting 21 points, ten boards, three assists, and three blocks. Michigan's defense otherwise held firm, holding USC below a point per possession, but there was little to be done on that end to overcome M's shooting woes.
While a game this ugly tends to leave a lasting impression, this is one best worth forgetting. Michigan may not be quite as good as they looked last week; they are certainly not as bad as they looked today.
One team found shooting a little easier than the other. [Joseph Dressler]
If this is a fever dream, please don't wake me up.
A little over 11 months after SMU played like men among boys in a 24-point win over Michigan, the Wolverines returned the favor to win the 2K Classic due to imposing size, dominant defense, and red-hot shooting from Derrick Walton.
I'll let that all sink in for a moment.
This was the best all-around performance by John Beilein's squad since the 2013-14 Big Ten title team. Michigan scored 1.32 points per possession while holding SMU to 0.88. The Wolverines turned the ball over four times and forced 13 Mustang turnovers. They hit 67% of their shots inside the arc and 43% of their three-pointers. They never trailed; from the 6:18 mark of the first half onward, the margin was never within double digits.
After going scoreless in Thursday night's win over Marquette, Walton had the best shooting performance of his career, hitting 7-of-12 threes to score a game-high 23 points and dishing out five assists with no turnovers. Fellow senior Zak Irvin was nearly as impressive, posting 16 points on 14 shot equivalents, grabbing six boards, and handing out five assists against a lone turnover.
Zak Irvin took home 2K Classic MVP honors. [Dressler]
The big story, however, was once again Michigan's frontcourt play. SMU power forward Semi Ojeleye entered the game averaging 23 points. With DJ Wilson seemingly everywhere on defense, Ojeleye managed only 11 on 4-for-13 shooting, and he was far from alone in his struggles; SMU shot 39% as a team. Wilson's six points, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocks don't come close to encapsulating his impact tonight. With Wilson and either Moe Wagner, Mark Donnal, or behemoth freshman Jon Teske manning the interior, SMU hardly had a clean look all evening.
Wagner and Donnal once again had efficient games on offense to go along with their strong work on defense. Donnal had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and capped the sequence of the night for Michigan: after Wilson drew a foul on a highlight-worthy dunk, Donnal rebounded the ensuing free throw, popped to the perimeter, and was rewarded for his effort with a three-pointer. Wagner had a quieter night because of some early foul trouble, but still managed to hit one of two three-pointers and pull down a few impressive rebounds. Teske made a surprise appearance early and held his own, forcing an SMU miss with his rather astonishing length and hitting a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a pick-and-roll.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found his groove with a couple strong takes to the basket, and after a slow start from the perimeter he eventually found his shot, finishing with 12 points on eight attempts. A quiet game from Duncan Robinson (2 points, 0-for-2 FG) was really the only negative of the game, and his role has diminished greatly with the emergence of Wilson at the four.
While it's dangerous to put too much stock in an early-season game, this marks two consecutive great performances by Michigan against teams that were supposed to pose significant challenges. That they've accomplished this on the strength of suffocating defense only adds to the excitement. There may not have been much buzz surrounding this team heading into the season, but that is already in the process of changing. It appears that, once again, John Beilein has successfully transformed his team for the better.
Moe Wagner and a concerned onlooker. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
After a slow start against a funky matchup zone defense, Michigan found some consistency late in the first half and pulled away in the second for a comfortable 76-58 win over Howard in the season opener. This was a stilted, largely unwatchable game; the officials called 47 fouls.
The Wolverines spent much of the first half trying to shoot over Howard's zone defense, allowing an overmatched Bison squad to take a small early lead and hang around for much of the first half. Derrick Walton took control of the game, hitting threes, running the point, and knocking down four free throws on one late-half possession after drawing a foul and ensuing technical on a play that left him with a slight limp that he played through with aplomb. Walton finished with 20 points, three assists, and three steals, and did most of his damage from beyond the arc, making four of his seven three-point attempts.
DJ Wilson (right, Campredon) keyed a quick start to the second half with a massive two-handed tip slam and a block on the following possession, but a sloppy turnover and back-to-back Howard three-pointers made it a five-point game with only 12:27 to play. That was as close as the Bison could get. Zak Irvin responded with a tough layup between two defenders, Wilson converted an and-one after an offensive rebound, and Irvin capped the quick run with an open three off a Wilson kickout—the rout was on.
While Wilson didn't have a totally clean game—his two turnovers were both ugly—he loooked like he could eventually overtake Duncan Robinson at the four. His length made him a matchup problem on both ends of the floor, he was very active on the boards, and he moved the ball around well. With nine points, eight boards, two assists, and a block, he showed he's quite capable of stuffing the stat sheet, and he's already a better defender than Robinson, who had a rough night (1/6 FG). At the very least, Wilson looks like he's earned his role as the first player off the bench.
Walton and Moe Wagner turned up the pressure on defense and gave Howard's ballhandlers fits. Both came away with three steals, and the new-look defense forced 17 total turnovers. Wagner did his best work on that end of the floor; Mark Donnal was the better offensive player in this game, finishing with 12 points and four offensive rebounds.
Zak Irvin couldn't find his outside shot, needing 13 shots to get 11 points. Xavier Simpson went 2-for-2 to net his first career points, first on a corner three, then a slick runner at the end of the shot clock. Ibi Watson also got his first bucket in a real game in limited action, and fellow freshman Jon Teske burned his redshirt in garbage time.
While Michigan will have to find a way to generate more shots at the rim that don't come off rebounds, this was an encouraging performance. Billy Donlon's impact is apparent. Those 17 turnovers stood out, as did Michigan's increased willingness to foul near the rim instead of ceding easy buckets, which was a winning strategy on a night Howard shot just 14-for-29 from the charity stripe. Much like in last week's exhibition, DJ Wilson looked like he's putting it all together, and that could be a season-changing development if it continues.
Derrick Walton did most of his offensive damage from beyond the arc.
Michigan learned a difficult lesson about the importance of the point guard position in John Beilein's system two years ago. Unfortunately, they learned the same lesson again last year. From the 2015-16 season preview:
As Michigan learned the hard way in 2014-15, it all starts with the point guard in John Beilein's system. Derrick Walton is healthy again after a foot injury derailed and then prematurely ended his sophomore season; now he's poised for the patented LaVall Jordan second-year leap a year later than expected. Spike Albrecht is recovering from surgery on his hips but should be a full go early in the season, giving the Wolverines a starter-quality backup.
Despite returning to full health, Derrick Walton had many of the same issues that were initially blamed on his foot injury—most glaringly, he remained woefully inefficient as a scorer inside the arc. Walton's support vanished when Spike Albrecht, not fully recovered from his hip surgeries, was shut down after nine games. For the second straight year, John Beilein was compelled to pull a redshirt off Andrew Dakich to provide spot minutes.
Walton has one final go-round to break into that elite tier of point guards. While Spike is off to Purdue, there's still good reason to hope point guard depth (finally) won't be an issue this year, as Ohio's Mr. Basketball, Xavier Simpson, joins the squad.
[Hit THE JUMP for in-depth player previews.]