[Patrick Barron]

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Despite an early barrage of three-pointers from Florida, Michigan was phenomenal again defensively, holding the Gators to 0.80 points per possession and securing a spot in the Sweet 16. Jordan Poole hit four threes and scored a game-high 19 points; Zavier Simpson controlled the game, outplayed his counterpart Andrew Nembhard, and posted 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Solid individual performances across the board aggregated into an impressive overall performance: Michigan grinded out a decent offensive showing and completely shut down the Florida offense, especially as the game wore on.

The first half was defined by runs and surprisingly high-scoring early on. Florida’s first two buckets came on threes: Jalen Hudson hit one in transition and Keyontae Johnson was set up from the pick and roll, but Michigan controlled the paint as they dug out a 15-6 lead. Simpson dished to Jon Teske for two early dunks, Jordan Poole was fouled and had a four point play, then Poole hit a decently contested, quick trigger three in the corner. Florida responded with a 15-6 run of their own to tie the game. Noah Locke got going from off the bench, scoring a quick eight points, and Nembhard’s work in the ball screen game was effective.

Florida’s defense was tricky. The Gators broke out an aggressive 1-3-1 at times, and it worked only because Michigan missed a fair amount of open threes in the first half. Eventually they would settle into man on 1-3-1 possessions after Michigan passed the ball around to distort the zone. The Gators, who finished with the third best defense in the SEC, were willing to defend Michigan with ostensible mismatches, and Simpson was excellent in breaking down different types of defenses. He pushed the ball off rebounds to force those mismatches, picked apart Florida with ball screens, and guided a Michigan offense that was much better at taking advantage of Teske’s size when he was guarded by a smaller player than it had been this season.


The defenses eventually settled in partway through the first half and the game more resembled the slow struggle it was expected to be. Ignas Brazdeikis, the only Wolverine who had a relatively quiet afternoon, had a couple of consequential sequences in the first half — he missed a layup but walled up in help defense at the rim on Kevarrius Hayes to get a stop; he posted up and missed a hook, then committed his second foul, a block. Michigan was without Iggy for the last five minutes of the half. Nembhard hit a three off a dribble handoff when Charles Matthews went under, but Matthews responded a few possessions later by flying down the lane for a two-handed dunk off a ball screen. Hayes scored on an alley-oop layup from Nembhard; Livers finally knocked down a three to give Michigan a 32-28 lead at halftime.

The Wolverines jumped the Gators after the break and looked to be on the verge of a blowout, scoring on their first four possessions. Iggy got a friendly bounce on a 1-4 pop three; Poole threw a nice pass over the top to a mismatched Teske for two; and Poole pump-faked and sliced through the 1-3-1 for an and-one layup. That play prompted a Florida timeout, Poole made the free throw, and then knocked down a step-back three on the next trip.

Michigan led 43-28, but the Gators responded. Hudson replied with a three of his own, Michigan went cold for a short stretch, and a nice drive and dish from Nembhard to Johnson for a dunk capped a 9-0 Gator run. Their lead down to six, John Beilein summoned Simpson for a timeout.

That timeout came with 14:21 left in the game, and Florida only managed to score 12 points the rest of the way. Michigan’s defense, spearheaded by Simpson, was physical and switchable on the perimeter (especially with Isaiah Livers in at the five), stayed in front on dribble drives, and started to take away the three. The Gators shot 6-12 from beyond the arc in the first half, and shot 3-14 in the second. Out of that Michigan timeout, Florida defended the initial action well, but fouled Poole on a three-point attempt. Poole knocked down all three free throws to push the lead back to nine, and Florida started to settle for difficult jumpers. Florida’s leading scorer, KeVaughn Allen, was held in check by Matthews for most of the game, but kept the Gators in striking range with a few buckets.


Michigan went on its decisive run with less than seven minutes left in the game. Up seven, Simpson was tripped and hit both ends of the one-and-one, Teske made himself available for a layup after the Gators shut off Simpson’s initial passing lane, Simpson threw an insane bounce pass to a streaking Livers in transition for a two-handed dunk over Nembhard, and Poole capped the 9-0 spurt with a three. As they pulled away, the defense locked in further and held Florida scoreless on seven straight possessions over that span. As the Gators extended their defense in desperation, Michigan made the right passes to unlock easy dunks for Livers and Matthews to put an exclamation point on the win.

Average offenses don’t have much of a chance when Michigan decides to tighten up the defense, and Florida’s struggles in the second half looked very familiar — no easy looks, tough contests inside, defenders flying around to bother shooters on the perimeter. Forty-nine points was the fewest scored by Florida this season. Even though the Gators had a strong defense, Simpson was the catalyst for what was a more than adequate offensive output, and one of Michigan’s wings — Poole, in this game — was an effective scorer. The Wolverines have been winning games like this all season.

This program has come a long way under John Beilein. Michigan’s in their third straight Sweet 16, they have arguably the best defense in the country (and if not, the second-best), and they notched their third 30-win season since 2013. The Wolverines will head to Anaheim for the West Regional and will face either Texas Tech — Michigan’s only peer in terms of defensive prowess — or Buffalo — a veteran mid-major with the best core in program history. Whichever team wins that Round of 32 game tomorrow will face the nastiest opponent they’ve seen all year.

[Box score after the JUMP]

TIL: Florida can not, in fact, continue to shoot 53 percent from three. Post ups do not, in fact, work against Jon Teske. Everything is, in fact, a hook.

And you can't have one without the other.


Michigan gets set to take on Florida
[Patrick Barron]

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Au revoir, crazyhips.

the Gators have more guys whose names start with "Ke" than anyone in the country except Kevin University, an NAIA school that only admits guys named Kevin 

when the opening tip is a neat definition of the game 

Michigan advanced to the Round of 32 with a comfortable win over Montana.