hoops game recaps
Wow. Michigan wins. pic.twitter.com/GNZLREzdyL
— Simon Kaufman (@sjkauf) March 11, 2016
Wow doesn't even begin to cover it.
Michigan played for their tournament lives against Big Ten champions Indiana, a team that ran them off their home court just over a month ago, in front of a heavily pro-Hoosiers crowd in Indianapolis. Heading into the final minute, the perimeter-oriented Wolverines had made only 4/19 three-pointers. Somehow, they were only down three.
Zak Irvin found Duncan Robinson open in the corner; after missing his first five attempts from beyond the arc, Robinson calmly tied the game with 46 seconds left.
Then Kam Chatman stripped IU's OG Anunoby on Indiana's ensuing possession. Irvin secured the ball with 20 seconds left, and as Derrick Walton took the ball up the court, John Beilein allowed the game to play out instead of calling a timeout.
I doubt Beilein imagined Walton would dish the ball off to Chatman in the corner; it's certainly not what he would've drawn up in the huddle. But Chatman—much-maligned, bust-in-the-making, 27%-career-three-point-shooter Kam Chatman—hesitated a moment, then hoisted a picture-perfect shot over Nick Zeisloft that caught nothing but net, beating the buzzer by 0.2 seconds.
With that most unlikely play, Michigan went from very much out of the NCAA Tournament to, at worst, very much in the conversation for an at-large bid; they'll have the opportunity to cement their place in the field when they play the winner of Purdue/Illinois in tomorrow afternoon's semifinal.
Much like the final play, nobody could've guessed how the Wolverines would upset Indiana. Mark Donnal and Moe Wagner combined for 21 points on 9/9 FGs while frustrating talented Hoosier big man Thomas Bryant into going 3/8 from the field with two turnovers; Wagner hadn't tallied a point in over a month. For the second straight game, Derrick Walton didn't make a field goal and didn't score at all until the final minutes, but he dished out a Big Ten Tournament record 12 assists. Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman scored 15 points on 14 shots before fouling out late; Irvin and Robinson combined to go 9/25 from the field in uneven performances for each.
While Yogi Ferrell (14 points, 8 assists) was his usual stellar self, Michigan kept Indiana from their standard perimeter dominance; they went just 4/17 from beyond the arc, and the Wolverines scored 22 points off 15 IU turnovers.
The last of those points may have secured an NCAA bid for Michigan a day after Northwestern pushed them to the brink of the NIT. It's been difficult to guess how this Michigan squad will play on any given day. Today, when it mattered most, they surprised in the best possible fashion.
It wasn't easy. It was, in fact, excruciatingly difficult to watch. In the end, however, Michigan survived a borderline-comedic series of late-game issues to eke past Northwestern, and they'll play for their NCAA Tournament lives tomorrow at noon against top-seeded Indiana.
In a tight game late in the second half, Michigan twice split a pair of free throws that could've helped seal the deal, first by Zak Irvin then Duncan Robinson. On the first occasion, Northwestern capitalized with an Alex Olah three-pointer. On the second, which kept the Wildcats within two points after the shot clock was turned off, Olah put back a Tre Demps miss with 0.1 seconds remaining to force overtime. Robinson shouldn't even have had the chance to extend M's lead in the first place; after Michigan burned two timeouts trying to get the ball inbounds, Northwestern trapped Robinson in the corner on M's third attempt, and before they fouled him the officials missed an obvious travel.
Robinson went off for 14 first-half points then was silent in the second half before his ill-fated trip to the line; his miss there was just his third of the season. That didn't shake the shooter's confidence, however. Robinson opened the scoring in overtime with a triple from above the break, and after Tre Demps and Nathan Taphorn put the Wildcats ahead by three, he knotted the ballgame at 70 with 46 seconds to go with another bomb off a well-designed sideline inbounds play.
After Bryant McIntosh missed a shot on Northwestern's ensuing possession and the ball grazed Taphorn on its way out of bounds to give Michigan the rock, Irvin rose above McIntosh for a long two and the lead with only three seconds left. The game appeared to be over when Irvin tipped Northwestern's desperation inbounds pass to Derrick Walton, who seemingly dribbled out the clock. Since nothing can be easy, though, an official review revealed Walton stepped on the baseline with 0.6 seconds left.
Mercifully, Walton was spared an ignominous fate when Taphorn's three-point attempt at the buzzer clanged harmlessly off the front of the rim.
Robinson finished with a team-high 21 points, Irvin added 16 points and 8 rebounds, and Abdur-Rahkman had 14 and 8. Walton had seven boards and five assists but couldn't get his shot to fall, scoring his only two points at the line while going 0/7 from the field. Michigan's big men were once again dominated by Olah, who put up 20 and 13 despite a quiet first half; Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle combined for just 8 and 6.
Michigan's postseason dreams are still alive for now. If they turn in a similar performance against Indiana, however, the NIT beckons.
Michigan went 0-for-2 on these shots. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
For the first 30 minutes or so, Michigan engaged in a back-and-forth battle against Wisconsin. When all-too-familiar issues plagued the Wolverines late, however, the Badgers pulled away, and Michigan's NCAA Tournament fate remains in serious question.
Zak Irvin tallied 14 points and eight rebounds to lead Michigan in both categories. He did the bulk of his damage in the first half, however, and his missed transition layup—on the heels of Derrick Walton leaving a fast break lay-in achingly short—was a lowlight among a series of backbreaking errors by the Wolverines down the stretch.
Irvin also got bullied by Nigel Hayes down the stretch, but he was far from alone in his struggles on that end. Duncan Robinson and Aubrey Dawkins were each victimized way too easily off the dribble. Mark Donnal couldn't avoid foul trouble for the second straight game. Half-hearted doubling in the post opened up the perimeter for a parade of threes by Bronson Koenig (19 points, 3/6 3P) and Vitto Brown (14, 4/6) and didn't do much to slow Wisconsin's bigs; Hayes and Ethan Happ combined for 28 points and made 10/18 two-pointers.
When Michigan's defensive shortcomings caught up to them, the offense faded, too. Irvin had just four points and two turnovers in the second half. Walton went 3/13 from the field, 0/6 in the second half. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the team's most reliable player of late, had only two points on 1/5 shooting. Robinson and Dawkins made 3/6 three-pointers but struggled to find open looks. Only Ricky Doyle, who made all five of his field goal attempts for ten points, had a notably good offensive performance.
The Wolverines played like a bubble team facing a clear-cut tourney team. They've got a week to practice before welcoming an Iowa squad to the Crisler Center on Saturday that's lost four of their last five and must face Indiana on Tuesday. With a victory, Michigan can still feel confident about their tourney chances. A loss would make for a stressful Big Ten Tournament.
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) February 25, 2016
I doubt any Michigan basketball fan is quite as excited as the team's official account, but despite a hideous start and an underwhelming game in general, the Wolverines kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
For that they can thank Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the only consistent offensive force for Michigan, which played in front of a subdued and sparse crowd of brave souls undeterred by the winter storm. Rahkman scored 19 points and made 8/12 shots inside the arc as he gained the paint again and again.
Michigan's early energy matched that of the audience. Northwestern jumped out to a 10-0 lead; the Wolverines missed their first eight shots—including five by Duncan Robinson alone on a series of good looks—before Zak Irvin finally snapped the dry spell with a layup nearly six minutes in.
Certified Wolverine-killer Alex Olah kept the Wildcats comfortably ahead for most of the half, with Rahkman the main reason Michigan remained within striking distance, before the Wolverines crept back into it despite their shooting woes. Robinson hit the team's first three-pointer just before the first-half buzzer sounded; at that moment it looked like Michigan would pull away when they found their rhythm in the second stanza.
Instead, the second half began much like the first. Northwestern opened with an 8-0 run keyed by back-to-back Aaron Falzon triples before Rahkman stemmed the tide with a layup. Rahkman finally got some help in the form of Aubrey Dawkins, who seemingly found the shot Robinson has lost. His two three-pointers in the span of three possessions tied the game midway through the half. After the two squads went toe-to-toe for five minutes, Dawkins gave the home team the lead for good with his third triple after running the floor off his own defensive rebound.
Rahkman had one more big play, putting back his own miss to extend the lead to five, and the Wolverines were able to ice the game at the line—Derrick Walton (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) went 6/6 from the charity stripe down the stretch.
While this game won't blow away the committee by any stretch, Michigan managed to avoid a resumé-crippling loss. It's become a common refrain this season: in a home game against a crummy opponent, the Wolverines made it look tougher than it should've been. They probably need to win one of the final two games against Wisconsin and Iowa if they want to make the tournament. They definitely need to play better to do so.
Yeah, OK, that's a problem. ESPN doesn't get it sometimes. pic.twitter.com/7U1En2iCjn
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) February 17, 2016
Michigan lost to Ohio State in basketball tonight. ESPN said so. It must be true.
ESPN, forgetting that cameras, unlike humans, are equipped with a zoom function, decided to show us the entire game from the floor. It's an understatement to say the experiment failed. I'm mostly incapable of telling you what went on. If you attended the game, feel free to help us out in the comments.
Did this shot go in? I HAVE NO IDEA pic.twitter.com/62uLqsW0Ui
— Sarah (@sarbucks) February 17, 2016
Ohio State was able to get inside on Michigan. That much I can tell you because the Buckeyes were obscured by other players, not the officials. The box score tells me they had 38 points in the paint. JaeSean Tate led the way with 13 points and made 6/8 two-pointers; center Trevor Thompson, not normally a major factor on offense, had 12 on 6/7 FGs.
Michigan had a difficult time doing the same. I know this because the Wolverines were obscured by the officials, not other players. Unless, of course, they were on the far side of the court, and then they were obscured by everyone. The box score tells me they were 5/24 on three-pointers. Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Derrick Walton were a combined 4/18 from beyond the arc. The only consistent performer on offense was Mark Donnal (17 points, 6/10 FG, 5/7 FT, 7 REB), who still relied on the rare successful foray to the hoop by a Wolverine to attain most of his points.
Moments like this really make my flatscreen HD TV worth it. https://t.co/345ip2TXTU
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) February 17, 2016
What not even ESPN's Worst Idea Since Jason Whitlock could obscure was how much better Ohio State's offense functioned than Michigan's, and also how poor the Wolverines performed on defense. When the Buckeyes weren't bulling their way into the paint, they were breaking open off curl-cuts for easy jumpers. Michigan never got in a rhythm, couldn't get all the way to the basket, and didn't find ways to get their shooters open.
Believe it or not, I just ran into one of ESPN camerawomen in the bathroom. She said that she can't pan without hitting anyone...
— Kelly Hall (@KellyHall20) February 17, 2016
Michigan missed their best chance to pull an upset and all but secure an NCAA Tournament bid. They'll get another shot on Sunday at Maryland. Even from butt-level, it's apparent the Wolverines will have to raise their level of play substantially this weekend.
Derrick Walton had taken nine shots. None of them had gone in. With Michigan improbably within three points in the waning minutes against Purdue, however, he crossed over PJ Thompson and charged into the paint, laying his first bucket in off the glass as AJ Hammons knocked him to the floor.
While Walton missed his chance to tie the game at the line, he more than redeemed himself, pulling down two signature high-flying defensive rebounds and making 4/4 free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory.
On the afternoon Caris LeVert finally returned to the court, only to play 11 scoreless first-half minutes before sitting out the second half, Zak Irvin also played out a redemption tale. Coming off an ugly 1/8 performance against Minnesota, Irvin went 2/7 in the first half and had his first shot of the second swatted by Hammons. Then he heated up from the outside and turned around his battle with burly Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, scoring 16 of his 22 points in the second half, including the winning points on a pull-up from the free-throw line with 1:09 remaining that barely crested over Hammons' fingertips.
Despite inconsistent performances from their stars, foul trouble for Mark Donnal, and Rapheal Davis once again eliminating Duncan Robinson (4 points, 0/1 3P) from the offense, Michigan found a way to win. To earn it, they had to lean on defense and rebounding.
Against the best rebounding team in the conference on both ends of the floor, Michigan won the battle of the boards, pulling down 28% of their misses to Purdue's 20%. While Swanigan (14 points, 6/9 FG) proved tough to handle, the bigs collectively slowed the two-headed center monster of Hammons and Isaac Haas (combined 21 points on 24 shots) with help from timely double-teams by the guards.
That's how Michigan could go 5/20 from three and still beat a team that presents major matchup issues. Purdue went 6/12 from beyond the arc but only 15/41 within it, and the second chances they normally rely upon weren't available very often. Days removed from one of the most demoralizing weeks in recent memory, Michigan is 9-4 in the Big Ten, all alone in fourth place and needing only two wins in their final five games—which includes a home matchup against Northwestern—to feel very good about their NCAA Tournament chances.
Perhaps—just perhaps—we were too quick to bury a John Beilein team. It wouldn't be the first time.