hoops game recaps
Same. [Patrick Barron]
Michigan could've overcome it, either with better rebounding or free-throw shooting or Derrick Walton's overtime three going a quarter-inch the right way or any of the dozens of little moments that ultimately tilt a close basketball game one way or the other.
It, in this case, was as much officiating as Minnesota. This was one of those unfortunate games in which you can either sound like a bitterly sore loser or sound like you're ignoring the big story. In a game that started slow and never got much of a rhythm, the officials made their presence felt, as crews featuring TV Teddy Valentine are wont to do. It's difficult, after an overtime loss, to ignore such sequences as the phantom foul and ensuing phantom technical—called, apparently, on assistant Saddi Washington for getting into position to talk to his team—that resulted in a four-point Minnesota possession instead of a Gopher turnover.
Walton gutted out 16 points and five assists and DJ Wilson had two huge threes—including a bomb to send it to overtime—among his 16 points. Moe Wagner had an efficient 15 points before fouling out in overtime. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a strong 14-point game marred by a pair of missed free-throws in the extra session. Jordan Murphy led the way for Minnesota with 16 points and 15 rebounds; Michigan had a tough time keeping him and center Reggie Lynch off the offensive glass.
The loss drops Michigan to 7-7 in Big Ten play and leaves them squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. More to come tomorrow when I'm less of a bitterly sore loser.
The knockout blow. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Derrick Walton pump-faked, got Wisconsin's defense to collapse, and found Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman, who hit a corner bomb through contact for a four-point play that gave Michigan the lead. While perhaps not expected, it wasn't the least likely thing in the world.
Then came the following sequence: Mark Donnal blocked Ethan Happ, Michigan got out on the fast break, and Zak Irvin's three-pointer hit nothing but net. Suddenly the Wolverines were up seven.
A few minutes later, Irvin found himself one-on-one on Ethan Happ, who'd dominated every defender Michigan threw his way. Irvin held his ground, though, and Moe Wagner picked off Happ's attempt to kick the ball back out. Adbur-Rahkman rewarded his center with a feed on the ensuing fast break, and the force of Wagner's dunk knocked Wisconsin's Zak Showalter to the ground. Crisler got as loud as it's been all season.
"I've been guarding fours and fives since I was a freshman here," said Irvin. "I guarded [Frank] Kaminsky as a freshman when we played Wisconsin. So it's really nothing new. Ethan Happ is a great player, I give him all the credit, but I think we really just wanted to win more."
On the strength of that second-half run, Michigan got a much-needed victory over a ranked team, and it didn't come in a fashion anyone expected. Happ was unstoppable for most of the evening, scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting and dishing out six assists. Walton, who'd carried the scoring load for much of the last month, had eight assists but only mustered five points. DJ Wilson helped erase Nigel Hayes on defense, but he was invisible on offense; the two seemed to cancel each other out.
Irvin's improbable banked-in three may have snapped his slump. [Bryan Fuller]
Coming to life after a couple midrange jumpers and a banked-in three from the top of the key, Irvin broke out of his slump at the perfect time. Irvin's 18 points were the most he's scored since dropping 20 in the first game against Wisconsin nearly a month ago to the day. His passing and defense were also critical components of tonight's win.
"I made the pull-up in the beginning of the first half," said Irvin. "That's usually my go-to shot, so I got to see that one go down, had a lot of confidence after that. The bank shot, you know, it's three points, so I'll take it any way I can get it, to be honest with you."
The win seemed unattainable only a few minutes into the second half. Wisconsin had fought off an 8-2 Michigan run to start the game, riding Happ to a one-point halftime lead. They stormed out of the gate in the second with a 7-0 run featuring a Happ assist and a bucket that brought him to 20 points with 17:35 to play. The Wolverines countered with six quick points, however, and after the teams traded a few buckets, Irvin found the bank open late and Happ committed his second foul. Irvin would score eight more points; Happ would go scoreless for the duration, harried by more frequent double-teams, and eventually foul out of the game.
MAAR's four-point play lit up the building. [Campredon]
Michigan got huge baskets down the stretch from Wagner, who drilled a late pick-and-pop triple over Happ to get to a team-high 21 points, and Rahkman, who needed only eight shots to net his 12. Even though the Wolverines missed a couple front-end free throws in the bonus, Wisconsin couldn't draw closer than five points after the final media timeout, and that only came after a comical five-shot possession that burned most of the remaining clock. Fittingly, it was Irvin who capped the scoring at the free-throw line.
"We knew our backs were against the wall going into this stretch that we have," said Irvin. "It still is. This helps us out, beating Wisconsin, but we can't let our foot off the gas. We've got to keep our foot on the gas. We know Minnesota is going to be a tough environment, and we'll be ready for it."
Wagner hits 3, runs over Tom Crean. pic.twitter.com/YdwT35WGlv
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) February 12, 2017
In one sense, this felt deeply unfamilar. Michigan entered today's game with zero road wins on the season and one victory in 17 tries at Assembly Hall since 1996, that an overtime win over a terrible 2008-09 Indiana squad. They never trailed the Hoosiers or even came particularly close to relinquishing their lead.
In another sense, this felt pleasantly familiar. Michigan turned up the defensive intensity, forced 15 turnovers—ten in the first half—and rode hot perimeter shooting and another tremendous game from Derrick Walton for a comfortable victory over the Hoosiers.
If this wasn't a must-win game, it was damn close to it, and Walton once again played with an intensity that matched the stakes. He scored 25 points, going 7-for-13 from the field and 9-for-9 from the line, while adding five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. It was a masaterful performance that had the CBS announcers full-on fawning over his play:
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 12, 2017
Much like in the first contest, Walton's main scoring support came from big men Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson. Wagner overcame a series of extremely questionable calls to post an 11-point, ten-rebound double-double while helping keep star IU center Thomas Bryant (8 points on 8 shots, 3 turnovers) in check. Wilson did a little bit of everything on both ends; he showed off an NBA-caliber array of shotmaking to net his 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and his NBA-caliber combination of size and coordination to tally three blocks and three steals.
Other than Zak Irvin (5 points, 1-for-8 FG), whose offensive woes continued, the supporting cast had another strong outing. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman needed only four shot equivalents for his seven points and once again made James Blackmon Jr. a relative non-factor; Blackmon scored only six points, three of which came on a meaningless garbage-time shot. Duncan Robinson hit a couple timely threes, playing his part in making sure IU paid dearly for their live-ball turnovers. Xavier Simpson followed his breakout MSU game by converting a strong take the hoop on his only shot attempt and chipping in two assists and a steal in 12 minutes.
The first road win of the season couldn't have come at a better time. Michigan is now 16-9, 6-6 in the Big Ten, and they'll be in the field in the next round of NCAA tournament projections; in many of them, they'll be taking Indiana's place. A 3-3 finish down the stretch, which features four road games and tough home contests against Wisconsin and Purdue, should have the Wolverines in position for an at-large bid. That looks a whole lot more realistic this afternoon than it did a week ago.
Derrick Walton joined Jalen Rose and Gary Grant in the 1000-400-400 club tonight and had fun doing it. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
"I think he's playing the best basketball of his career," said Tom Izzo. "And I think this game was the most important thing in his life."
Derrick Walton wasn't going to let his team lose this one. His teammates, in a pleasant surprise, matched the near-manic effort Walton has played with for the last month.
"Before the game the guys just really banded together and told me they really wanted to get this one for me," said Walton. "They played like it, and I'm really appreciative of it all. Everybody played their heart out."
An increasingly impossible to predict Michigan squad blew the game open midway through the first half, ripping off a 32-10 run with highlights aplenty, including a DJ Wilson posterization of Kenny Goins and Duncan Robinson capping the half with a walk-off triple from Caris Corner. Moe Wagner dominated his matchup with Nick Ward, hitting all five of his first-half attempts and goading Ward into a Grayson Allen-style technical foul. Michigan forced 12 first-half turnovers, three of them shot-clock violations. Walton continued his spectacular run of play with 12 points, three boards, and seven assists by halftime. The second half was academic.
"Can't say enough about Derrick Walton right now, of just the tranformation in the last month," said John Beilein.
Wilson, Simpson, and MAAR all came through with big plays. [Campredon]
Walton's young charge also looked transformed. Xavier Simpson entered tonight with two made field goals in Big Ten play. Tonight, working within what Beilein said was a simplified package of plays, he played with newfound confidence, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting and dishing out two assists in the best 12 minutes of his young career. Like his teammates, Simpson played with something extra for his senior captain from Detroit.
"This is [Walton's] last time playing Michigan State, so for him to get that win means a lot," said Simpson.
Michigan's dominance extended to almost every facet of the game. They went 22-for-32 from inside the arc, buoyed by Wagner's skilled play around the hoop and strong finishes from the guards. They shot 10-for-21 on three-pointers, led by a perfect 3-for-3 mark from Walton. They played with great defensive intensity, forcing 21 turnovers and holding MSU under 48% from the field. They kept the Spartans off the boards. And, yes, they played with more emotion; Wilson's technical stood out as a positive, while Ward's was very much the opposite.
A happy squad. [Campredon]
"Today was, like, perfect," Beilein said of the team's mental edge. "They were right there. They were angry. They were junkyard dogs—that was the whole idea, the picture of a doberman that I wanted them to go out and play like, I think it was a doberman but he had big teeth."
Beilein, like the rest of us, admitted he's never sure when the team is going to play with that bite. Tonight, in a rivalry game they had to win to keep any realistic shot at a tourney bid, they had it going full force. Whether it will carry over to Sunday's game at Indiana is anyone's guess. It's a start, at least, and if the whole team can continue to rise up to the standard Walton is setting, they may just make the late run they need.
"We don't think we've played as well as our talent shows," said Walton. "We've got seven games left and we can still do something special."
Ohio State muscled their way to the basket, then missed, then rebounded, picked up a foul, and made their free throws. Then Michigan attempted a three. That could be how the game ended, or any possession in a one-way physical battle that might have elbowed Michigan out of a place in the tournament. In fact I wrote it with six minutes left in the game. I get no points.
In a game expected to come down to whose backup center spent more time on the floor Michigan couldn’t keep its starter out there for more than five minutes. Unable to win battles in the paint Michigan lived and died by its three-point shooting while Ohio State owned the boards, taking 16/33 offensive rebound opportunities and 26/33 on their own end. The numerous second opportunities on Michigan’s side led to a lot of fouls, putting the Wolverines’ best frontcourt defenders on the bench and exacerbating the mismatches down low.
Derrick Walton continued his inspiring play since the Illinois “white collar” comment, leading all scorers with 25 points and nearly his team to a late comeback. Walton finished 6/9 from distance (a possible 7th was called a two-pointer could have gone either way). He also led the Michigan defensive effort with 10 rebounds, including his team’s first OREB of the game late in the 1st half, when he out-leapt even his own center:
Walton also drove to nearly tie it right before freethrowtime, missing both a tough layup and his attempted put-back. After Ohio State missed two free throws—just their third and fourth whiffed freebies of the game—Walton again put Michigan within one with his last three-pointer. That would do it for Wolverine scoring; Ohio State made their next four attempts to finish 24 for 28 at the charity stripe.
Michigan started on a 9-2 run and pushed it as far as 19-8 early. But Ohio State battled back to a 36-35 halftime lead by dominating the boards on both ends despite their own foul troubles. The Buckeyes’ 10-1 first half advantage in offensive rebounds was augmented by an uncharacteristic six turnovers for Michigan, half off the hands of Irvin.
Matters got worse early in the first half as both Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson quickly picked up their third fouls. Ohio State took advantage, pushing their lead to 47-39 by the next break as their frontcourt feasted on Donnal and Robinson. Wagner came back in at the 15 minute mark but immediately picked his fourth whistle, putting Donnal back on the floor. Moe would enter again late, fouling out on Michigan’s last wrap-up in the waning seconds. Teske did not play.
Michigan has its other, more basketbally rival coming to town for a night game this week. It’s hard to see this team making the tournament if they’re as accommodating to those guests too.
Miles Bridges hit some key shots late. [Bryan Fuller]
Even against a Michigan State team that's not up to Tom Izzo's usual standard, Michigan needed a lot to go right if they wanted to pull out a win in the hostile confines of the Breslin Center.
Very little went right.
The Wolverines struggled to score, shooting 40% on twos and 27% on threes. Zak Irvin had the worst game of his career, going scoreless on eight shots with three turnovers in 36 minutes. Derrick Walton was a bright spot with his aggressive drives to the basket, but while he scored 24 points and went 14-for-15 from the line, he couldn't get dialed in from long range, making only 2-of-9 threes. Moe Wagner, the only Wolverine who could consistently score from the field, only got up six shot attempts while saddled with foul trouble, and his fourth foul came on a preposterous double technical.
There were times when Michigan looked like the superior team, but they couldn't sustain them for long. The deciding stretch came early in the second half; starting at the 17:23 mark, when M trailed by a mere two points, the normally turnover-averse Wolverines coughed up the rock seven times in eight minutes. Suddenly, MSU had a double-digit lead, and the closest Michigan could get the rest of the way was four points as Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston closed the game out strong.
Given their offensive performance, Michigan was lucky to be this close. On the flip side, they managed to hang tight with MSU on the road while playing far from their best game. They'll have the whole week to work out this afternoon's issues before taking on a very beatable Ohio State squad at Crisler on Saturday. Two days later, they'll get a chance for revenge against the Spartans, and they'll need Irvin to show up for that one if they want a different result.