"So you haven't seen us win many like that," said John Beilein to open his postgame presser. Truer statements have rarely been spoken.
Let's set aside, for a moment, the hideous nature of this game, and instead appreciate the future of Michigan basketball. That future is the big man pairing of Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson, which came up huge on both ends of the floor to pry a victory out of the jaws of defeat.
With 1:56 to play, Kerwin Roach gave Texas a 50-48 lead, and Michigan looked to be in a very tight spot when Zak Irvin's entry pass bounced out of bounds off Wagner's hands on the following possession. The Wolverines played suffocating defense to force an airball, and Wagner halved the margin with a free throw, then gave Michigan a 51-50 lead with a putback off a missed Irvin layup with 14 seconds to play.
With the game on the line, Texas first tried to run a play through Tevin Mack, who scored a game-high 18 points. Wilson stonewalled Mack as he tried to drive, then batted away a kickout pass to force the Longhorns to reset on an inbounds play. That play went to Eric Davis, who Wilson stuck with as he dribbled across the paint before seamlessly passing him off to Wagner, who emphatically blocked the potential game-winner. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman corralled the loose ball and put Michigan up three at the line; the ensuing midcourt prayer went unanswered.
A stylish finish (left) and the game-winning putback (right). [Campredon]
"I thought [Wagner] was the best player on the floor tonight," said Texas coach Shaka Smart.
There's plenty of evidence to back that up beyond the final sequence. Wagner paced the Wolverines with 15 points, made seven of his ten two-point attempts, pulled down five reounds, and added two assists, two steals, and a block. Beilein acknowledged that Wagner's defense has improved; he said, in fact, that he wanted to replace Wagner with Mark Donnal late in the game as a defensive substitution, but assistant Billy Donlon advised him not to do so—thankfully, he heeded Donlon's advice.
If Wagner wasn't Michigan's best player on the floor, it was Wilson. He required only seven shot equivalents to score his 13 points, led the team with six rebounds, and added two assists, two steals, and two blocks. He played great on-ball defense without getting into foul trouble.
The two bigs were Michigan's only effective offensive players this evening. Duncan Robinson was the only other Wolverine to finish in double figures, and he required 11 shots to score 12 points. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin were a combined 4-for-17 from the field with ten points, seven assists, and eight turnovers. Other than the huge final rebound and subsequent free throws, MAAR was invisible, scoring all three of his points from the line.
Michigan will need much more offense to hang with UCLA on Saturday. The defense, built around the two bigs, allowed only 0.82 points per possession and forced 14 turnovers tonight; that is more than welcome to stay, even if it takes some time to get used to it.
1 hour and 20 minutes
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starts at 1:00
You can see why early season Speight won the job over O’Korn, who did his Madden first timer impression long after it stopped being funny. How Michigan solved Indiana’s slice and dice linebackers, and shout-out to the receivers for blocking a 1950s game.
starts at 17:00
Indiana stretched and Michigan kept that down with a steady diet of Glasgow penetration and Taco going bonkers. Indiana did Mitch Leidner us a bit, if you can even call that a catch.
Special Teams & Game Theory
starts at 28:20
Oh man this punter. Dantonio goes for a mental message 2-point conversion with Tyler O’Connor. 1950s ball is acceptable when you’re in the 1950 Game.
starts at 39:32
Ace’s Thera-Flu hallucination is apparently being shared by the rest of us who think D.J. Wilson should be the top of a 1-3-1. Michigan’s big(!) team is fouling(!) like an average(!) team and has a solid defense(!). So far this season is its best case scenario.
Talking Big Ten w/ Interrupting Jamie Mac
starts at 1:01:15
It may be worth it to keep the Northern Hemisphere in perpetual precipitationary darkness for the duration of J.T. Barrett’s career. How often did Ohio State use its 8-ypc running back tandem? Did anyone else get Mitch Leidner’d this week? Is Rutgers in the Big Ten some kind of sick joke? I’m not saying this is in the podcast, I’m asking as I write this, like is Delaney gonna turn around and be like “Dude, no, I meant we should get that defensive lineman who’s committed to Oregon ha ha you actually thought…oh no. NoNoNoNoNoNo.”
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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.
Marquette had no answer for Michigan's size. Seriously. [Joseph Dressler]
"They're just too big," said Karl Ravech, the ESPN play-by-play man. He was talking about a Michigan basketball team. It was a true statement.
"The defense by Michigan has really been outstanding," Fran Fraschilla added a short time later.
By the second half, the two were discussing how future opponents would handle Michigan's size as Moe Wagner demonstrated precisely why they were on that topic:
MOE WAGNER IS GOOD. pic.twitter.com/W44ug1ypvS
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) November 18, 2016
The key to it all was the insertion of DJ Wilson into the starting lineup in Duncan Robinson's stead. Both players flourished in their new roles. Wilson looked every bit as good as he did in the season's first two games, if not better, tallying his first career double-double with ten points and 13 boards and filling out the box score with a pair of assists and blocks. Robinson came off the bench to match his season point total, hitting 3-of-4 three-point attempts to finish with ten himself. The switch allowed John Beilein to unleash Wilson and pick ideal matchups for Robinson; it paid off immediately.
Michigan jumped out to an early lead due to hot outside shooting and a torrent of Marquette turnovers. Even the big men got into the act, with Wagner, Wilson, and Mark Donnal all connecting on first-half triples. Robinson's pair of first-half bombs got the lead up to double digits, and a strong stretch by Donnal—his tip-in of a Xavier Simpson miss elicited Ravech's comment—helped push the margin up to 24 points at the break.
DJ Wilson dominated the boards. [Dressler]
The Wolverines were able to set it on cruise control for the second half. They eased up a little too much at times, committing some sloppy turnovers to allow Marquette to get as close as 12 points down, but every run was swiftly rebuffed.
The frontcourt was the story of the night, as it should've been: Mark Donnal went 6-for-9 for 15 points, Wilson was everywhere, and Wagner tallied nine points and the SportsCenter posterization. That overshadowed a quietly solid performance from the others. Zak Irvin had his midrange game going early and started knocking down threes, too, on his way to a 16-6-6 stat line marred only by four turnovers.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finished with 15 via frequent trips to the line and some tough twos. Derrick Walton and Xavier Simpson didn't need to score to make an impact. Both played excellent perimeter defense and the offense didn't skip a beat when Walton sat with two fouls early on. Notably, Beilein let Walton re-enter the game with two fouls midway through the half, and he rewarded his coach's confidence by not picking up another the rest of the way.
The resounding victory puts Michigan in tomorrow night's 2K Classic title game against SMU, another team that looks like it will surpass preseason expectations after a comfortable 76-67 win over Pitt in the other semifinal. That game tips at 7 pm on ESPN2. A bigger, burlier Mustangs squad should provide a tougher matchup; if Michigan is able to get through that close to as well as they did tonight's game, it'll be time to get really excited about where this season can go.
DJ Wilson is happening. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
I was in a van traveling through Iowa and Illinois while the Michigan hoops squad defeated IUPUI 77-65. I just finished going over the game, which played out much like last Friday's defeat of Howard. The Wolverines got off to a slow start, trailing 32-30 with 4:18 left in the first half, before closing out the half with a 13-0 run—the margin never got below nine points in the second half.
It's time for some bullets, starting with the story of the season thus far.
DJ Wilson is overtaking Duncan Robinson. We're only two games into the season, but it sure looks like Wilson is going to take Robinson's spot in the starting lineup, or at the very least end up playing more minutes in a super-sub role. The latter is what happened against IUPUI. Robinson started and scored seven points in only 12 minutes, but he's still not a great defender. Wilson played 30 minutes and packed the stat-sheet: seven points, 14(!) rebounds (four offensive), an assist, and five(!!!) blocks. He even hit one of his two three-point attempts and looked comfortable doing so.
[Hit THE JUMP for more DJ Wilson praise and the rest of my notes from IUPUI.]
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.