hoops game recaps
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.
A thousand words. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
This one is going to sting.
Michigan had every opportunity to put Virginia Tech away and get a quality home win only to squander it with poor defense, strange substitutions by John Beilein, and a hideous heroball play by Zak Irvin on the potential game-winning shot.
The first half went about as well as one could ask. The Wolverines jumped out to a quick lead and were up by double digits for most of the opening stanza, exploiting VT's matchup zone—something they'd seen already this season against Howard—for a series of open threes and layups. Irvin was especially hot, pouring in 15 of his game-high 23 in the first half, and solid offensive contributions from Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Moe Wagner combined with sloppy play from VT to give the Wolverines a nine-point halftime edge.
It was a different story in the second half. The Hokies stopped coughing up the ball, allowing them to attack Robinson and MAAR on the perimeter for blow-by layups and take advantage of Mark Donnal's interior defense seemingly every possession he was on the floor.
"[We were] just doing some strange things on defense, and it really cost us," said John Beilein.
"Sometimes we just lose that edge when you've got to get a stop, we lose that edge to get a stop. We've got to be a better defensive team than that."
Wagner had an efficient outing that left many wanting more. [Campredon]
Even though Wagner clearly outplayed Donnal throughout the game, they each logged 17 minutes, and the difference between the two was stark on both ends. VT's Zach LeDay got most of his 18 points when matched up with Donnal; he found the going tougher against Wagner and, for one possession before he fouled out, DJ Wilson. The Hokies couldn't stop Wagner, who hit 5-of-6 shots—most of them driving layups—for 11 points. Donnal did not score.
Michigan's ball movement petered out in the second half, too, and with it went their hot shooting; they shot only 12-for-30 and 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Irvin embodied Michigan's struggles. After going 6-for-8 in the first half, making his shots within the confines of the offense, he hit only 4-of-12 in the second, forcing more of his looks. None were worse than his heroball chuck on Michigan's penultimate possession, which badly missed the mark with Michigan down one.
"We were trying to isolate him and they took him away a little bit. We know what to do when they take him away and we didn't do it," Beilein said. "It's that simple. So now we got isolated and we got all gunked up there, we couldn't call timeout, and we got a bad shot."
"I wish we had a timeout to really put something together. They blew it up and we didn't counter well."
After two VT free throws and a deflected inbounds pass, Michigan had one last chance on a sideline inbounds play with 3.7 seconds left. Wagner saved a long toss to Robinson, who got a half-decent look to tie it, but his shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
"It's a great learning curve game for us, and we'll grow from it," Beilein said. "We didn't deserve the win the game the way we played those last ten minutes."
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.
DJ Wilson had a breakout game. So did his shorts. [Isaiah Hole/247]
Michigan coasted to a 77-49 win over D-II Armstrong State in their exhibition tune-up at Crisler tonight. A traditional recap is quite unnecessary, so it's time for the bullets.
DJ Wilson looked like a different player. Wilson nearly tallied a double-double, scoring ten (3/8 2-pt, 1/2 3-pt) and adding nine boards (four offensive), an assist, and two blocks. That doesn't cover his full impact, either. Wilson's length caused serious problems for ASU shooters—at least one Wilson-induced airball didn't count as a block—and he came very close to converting a couple more tip-ins. In stark contrast to previous years, Wilson knew where he was supposed to be and played with confidence. Opponent cavats abound, but tonight he looked like he'll be an integral part of the rotation; Wilson was first off the bench and played 24 minutes, all at the four.
The pecking order at center is clear. If Wilson's play wasn't the headliner, it was that of Moe Wagner, who scored a very efficient 15 points (6/8 2-pt, 1/1 3-pt) and more importantly played a clean game. Wagner had one early turnover and otherwise took good care of the ball, and he had only one foul, which he picked up well into the second half.
Mark Donnal was next in off the bench and looked much like he did last year, struggling some on defense and missing one of his two layups. It wasn't all bad for Donnal, who had a couple offensive rebounds, a block, and a steal in only seven minutes, but he certainly didn't look like he'd undergone a transformation.
Jon Teske got in late in both halves. He hit a face-up jumper during his first-half stint and threw down a tip-slam in the second. Otherwise, he didn't have a chance to show much. He's clearly ahead of Austin Davis, who looks destined for a redshirt—Davis didn't enter the game until the very late stages, and was on the floor with walk-ons Brent Hibbits and Fred Wright-Jones.
Watson (left) and Wagner with strong finishes. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Ibi Watson was up-and-down but mostly up. Watson had a couple turnover when he tried to do too much, especially on a fast-break opportunity when he tried a no-look pass that ASU cut off. He helped make up for that with active defense, hounding his man for three steals while only committing one foul. While he only went 1/4 from beyond the arc, his shot looked smooth. Watson was the second player off the bench and looks to have a real role as the backup 2/3.
Xavier Simpson had a quiet debut. The freshman was held scoreless on only two attempts and had a pair of turnovers to go with his two assists. His physical ability was apparent; he jetted past the entire ASU defense before dropping off a pass to Davis that almost caught the big man off guard for his second assist. Simpson took a page out of Derrick Walton's book, pulling down five defensive rebounds; he doesn't have Walton's height or hops, but he showed a good feel for where to be. He also disrupted a couple ASU possession with his quick feet and quick hands. Quiet isn't necessarily concerning, even if Simpson looks like he'll take some time to get fully comfortable—that was always going to be the case as a freshman running the point in Beilein's system.
The seniors did their thing. Walton had a quiet 12-6-7 while splitting his time between the point and the two—he mostly played off the ball when he shared the court with Simpson. Irvin tied Wagner with a team-high 15 points and added four assists and two steals. Both had a couple hiccups—Irvin blew a fast-break dunk for no discernable reason—but they mostly let the new rotation players get comfortable, then took over in late-clock situations if the team needed to get a shot up.
MAAR sat out with an ankle injury. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman watched this one in street clothes after he reportedly rolled his ankle in practice yesterday. Sean Lonergan took his place in the starting lineup; it's very safe to assume Beilein inserted Lonergan instead of one of the freshmen so he could keep his planned rotation intact. Lonergan, for what it's worth, went 2/2 from the field, but he didn't look good on defense—I'd be surprised if he gets run when the team is healthy.
The new defense was disruptive. This should be music to your ears: the hard hedge is gone. Michigan's defenders mostly stayed inside the arc, with the guards—not centers running out to midcourt—putting the pressure on ballhandlers. ASU was sloppy—several of their 19 turnovers were unforced—but Michigan came away with eight steals and five blocks. The team is noticably longer this year, especially with Wilson in the lineup. There were a couple noticable blown switches, and a couple guys got missed boxouts late, but this was an encouraging first game with Billy Donlon as Beilein's right-hand man.
Zak Irvin making plays late. pic.twitter.com/R5Ia8IbGsp
— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) March 17, 2016
Zak Irvin had been, for lack of a better word, terrible. His last shot had barely grazed the rim. His last drive had resulted in a depressingly predictable turnover. He'd made one three-pointer all game.
But when Irvin's defender ducked under a Moe Wagner screen, he didn't hesitate to rise and fire with Michigan down a point and less than a minute on the clock. Despite some trepidation from onlookers...
The look on John Beilein's face on that Irvin 3 pic.twitter.com/FbrqNjs3gH
— Patrick Barron (@BlueBarronPhoto) March 17, 2016
...Irvin's shot found twine. A couple stops and five free-throws later, Michigan booked a trip to Brooklyn to face six-seed Notre Dame.
While the game got the desired result, it's not one Michigan fans are likely to want to relive. Both teams went through first-half scoring droughts that exceeded six minutes. After the Wolverines finished the half on a drawn out 19-4 run to take an eight-point lead, they gave it all back in the first three minutes of the second before both teams went ice-cold.
John Beilein played Andrew Dakich for five frustrating minutes while Derrick Walton sat on the bench with foul trouble. For murkier reasons, he sat Wagner—Michigan's biggest bright spot all game—in favor of Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle before rectifying that error for the home stretch.
While the Wolverines were effective when they attacked the basket against an undersized Tulsa squad, only Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman—and on a couple surprising occasions, Wagner—was willing to drive to the paint with any consistency. MAAR wasn't a paragon of efficiency with 16 points on 5/16 FG, but he created havoc on the Tulsa defense that led to putback opportunities and drew enough contact to get extra points at the line (6/8 FT).
Wagner, meanwhile, played like he should be the clear-cut starter at center. After recording two blocks all season, he had four tonight in addition to pulling down eight rebounds and making both his shot attempts, including a poster-worthy slam on a second-chance opportunity to give M a late three-point lead. Michigan functioned better on both sides of the court with Wagner on the floor.
Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three; while he wouldn't hit another until late in the game, he found other ways to contribute—he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out a team-high four assists, and finished a few forays to the hoop to tally 13 points. The contributions of MAAR, Wagner, and Robinson—a sophomore no major program wanted, a freshman who barely clung to a role this season, and a D-III transfer—allowed Michigan to overcome underwhelming performances from their two go-to guys.
Then, with the pressure on, Irvin delivered. It wasn't pretty. It was, in fact, cringeworthy, as Beilein's face can attest. At this point in the year, however, the final score is all that matters.
Now somebody grab me a drink.