than I expected. I hope this is what this team needs. A little bit of a wake up call.
Michigan 64, Illinois 63
Jordan Morgan's shot got the roll. Tracy Abrams didn't give his a chance, clanging his last-second floater off the front iron.
In an all-too-close game against Illinois, that ended up being the difference for Michigan, which narrowly avoided being bounced in their first Big Ten Tournament game despite playing ugly defense and seeing their offense grind to a halt when the Illini switched to a 2-3 zone in the second half.
In the early going, it looked like the Wolverines would win comfortably. Michigan jumped out to a 12-7 lead despite missing a few open three-point looks. After the Illini closed the gap, Michigan pushed it back up to five by halftime thanks to a spectacular breakaway dunk by Caris LeVert. At the break, Michigan was 7/12 from two and 6/13 from three. The defense wasn't playing very well, sure, but Illinois would inevitably have trouble keeping up. Right?
Wrong. John Groce called for the 2-3 zone for most of the second half, and suddenly the Wolverines couldn't generate anything inside the arc. Michigan only attempted five two-pointers in the second half. To make matters worse, the outside shots stopped falling: 4-for-17 on threes in the latter stanza. Nik Stauskas, despite leading the team with 19 points, had an unusually poor day from the field, shooting 2/2 inside the arc but just 2/10 beyond it; his saving grace was getting to the line, where he hit 9/10 attempts.
While Michigan went cold, Illinois kept carving up the Wolverine defense, and Rayvonte Rice gave the Illini a 63-61 lead on a layup with just 2:31 on the clock. For some reason, however, Groce decided that was the time to go back to man-to-man defense. Stauskas immediately took advantage, driving past his defender and drawing a foul; he'd split the pair of free throws to close the gap to one.
Jordan Morgan made the defensive play of the game on the next possession, teaming with Derrick Walton to hedge Tracy Abrams and pin him against the sideline; Abrams's had to chuck up an airball as the shot clock expired, giving Michigan a chance to retake the lead.
They'd do just that off a high ball screen for Stauskas, though not in the way they'd planned:
"Coming out of the timeout, Nik told me he was going to shoot it regardless." - Jordan Morgan
— Dylan Burkhardt (@umhoops) March 14, 2014
Two Illinois defenders made a shot near-impossible, so Stauskas rose above them and delivered a pinpoint feed to Morgan rolling towards the basket. Michigan's senior captain put it up soft, and the ball fell through after a couple bounces on the rim, giving the Wolverines a one-point edge with seven seconds left.
After a timeout with 3.9 seconds remaining, Abrams had one last chance to win the game for Illinois. As Illini guards had done for much of the afternoon, he blew right past the Michigan defense, then pulled up in the paint for a short floater. The shot came out short, however, and the Wolverines—partially out of joy, partially out of relief—ran celebrating to the Michigan bench.
It wasn't pretty. It was a win. Now Michigan awaits the winner of OSU/Nebraska, whom they'll play tomorrow at 1:40 on CBS in the conference semifinals.
I hate wake up calls. I'd rather just kick their ass.
Glad we got this bad game out of the way early. Almost felt inevitable that we would have one eventually and it came at the perfect time to have one.
Now I REALLY don't want to play Syracuse in the tourney.
I don't think there's anything inherent about the zone that our offense is ill-equipped to face. It's simply a different look than what we normally see, and this is a very young team.
A practice or two emphasizing the right pass to make, how to penetrate...we'll be fine.
We will miss McGary. He was able to posttion himself to receive the ball in the paint in the middle of the zone. When he got it, he could shoot it from there, distribute it, or drive the lane . . . triple threat. We have nobody who can do all that now.
working his way into the top of the key, spinning and popping or dropping it off. Beilein can handle this.
As cliche as it sounds, this time of the year is all about survive and advance.
I don't like the idea of telling the team you are shooting no matter what. You don't know what the defense is going to do. What if Morgan hadn't been looking at Stauskas? He would have had no where to go with the ball if everyone is just chrashing the boards because they know he is shooting.
I like the attitude to want to take the last shot, but don't make that the only option. Be flexible for what the defense gives you.
Eh, might not be a bad idea. Let's the guys know the need to go after the rebound as soon as he rises up. Luckily Morgan is smart enough to look for the pass regardless.
I knew we'd get a far better game from Illinois as they were fighting for their life and weren't going to let us go bonkers from 3 point land. However, it was concerning that we struggled so much against the 2-3 zone and settled for long and contested threes.
If Beilein might try having Caris pick up the opposing team's point guard full court? Might be a good way to wear them down and cut precious time out of the other team's offensive sets.
Opposing guards are parading to the hoop. Maybe we should force them to work a little harder and get tired doing it, even if we do give up a few easy baskets.
That's going to be much harder on LeVert than it will be on opposing PGs.
Too bad for Illinois they had that awful stretch in Big Ten play. They've sure as hell looked every bit of a tournament team the past 4 weeks (Aside from one ass whooping by UM).
and I hope they do.
Obviously I'm not calling for Beilein's head or anything, but I do think he deserves the blame for Michigan's offense stalling. It's a simple 2-3 zone, it shouldn't be that hard to get a decent shot.
I know Illinois was playing it will, but Beilein kept going back to the high ball screen every possession and it never worked. But he kept going back to it. It's a small thing, but if we lost I think he would deserve the blame.
syracuse has been running the 2-3 zone for years and teams still struggle with it. if you have length and quickness it makes it very difficult to get those inside out passes that can beat the zone. its simple schematically but it works if done well and the ilini were playing very well in it
Illinois was playing the zone well, but at the same time, Illinois is not Syracuse.
Illinois just had a stretch of holding four conference opponents in a row under 50 points. We are the only team to score over 55 on them in about a month. Their jerseys may not say Syracuse but they are playing fantastic defense right now.
That Michigan ran the same zone break yesterday that they did against Syracuse last year.
Now that I know who to blame.
Illinois is a good defensive group, and the zone can be hard to beat if the outside shots aren't falling. That's usually how you break a zone. I'm sure Beilein will have ways to compensate next time, but LOTS of teams struggle against good zones.
One day, a team can hand another team their worst loss ever in their own house, and then a week later those same two teams can grind it out in a battle to the death.
Way too close for comfort, but Illinois is not a bad team. Yeah Michigan blew them out (BLUE) last week on their own court, but besides their awful 1-10 stretch, they're a pretty good team. Having played Michigan recently gave them film and a desire of revenge, which they almost fulfilled.
I just want to say thank you to the team for winning today, and giving me another Michigan game to watch tomorrow afternoon, before heading to the Yost for the Minnesota game.
And PLEASE win tomorrow, so I have a great excuse not to go have lunch with the girlfriend and her mom!!!
sounds like this game was exactly what I feared it would be. glad they figured out just enough to pull off a win!
Any highlight videos up, or videos of the last minute? I was stuck at work.
Have to play a lot better to win this tournament and make noise in the Big Dance. Simple as that.
seemed like every shot was a three was hard to take. Create, scheme.
If you don't hit outside shots or have a four that can either shoot or pass from the middle you are doomed against a 2-3. That's what happened today.
Again groce is playing the odds. When I was rewatching the Syracuse game our shooting went cold the second half and they got back in it.
Simply put - shoot poorly and the zone kills you. The way you beat it is either hit threes or have Glenn Robinson shoot the high post jumper. We didn't do that latter and that could have killed us.
Jon Horford has simply got to play better. We need his size against OSU. Horford has really struggled for quite a few weeks now.
He had one nice tap out that got us an offensive rebound, but everything else was not good.
He's got to find something inside himself, because we need him tomorrow.
This game reminded me why I do NOT want us to be a #1 seed. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day.
We already have the biggest upset in college FOOTBALL history. Why risk also getting the biggest upset in college BASKETBALL history?
A #2 seed is fine with me.