Michigan 77, Nebraska 58

Michigan 77, Nebraska 58 Comment Count

Ace March 2nd, 2018 at 5:51 PM


Hits first three, M goes off. The hypothesis holds. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

That was pleasantly different.

Michigan played a game entirely unlike both their first matchup with Nebraska and yesterday's overtime win over Iowa, using scorching shooting and suffocating defense to post a 77-58 blowout of the Huskers in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

When these teams last met, Moe Wagner scored only two points in 32 minutes, effectively taken out of the game by Nebraska's all-switch approach on defense. This time around, Wagner and the Wolverines were ready. He surpassed his first-game scoring total within the first two minutes on his way to a monster stat line: 20 points on 18 shot equivalents, a game-high 13 rebounds (three offensive), an assist, two blocks, and a steal in 33 minutes. In case the Huskers weren't fully aware that Wagner had solved their defense, he let them know about it after seemingly every bucket, often removing his mouthguard to let loose the trash talk.

"For him to get 13 rebounds today is exceptional," said John Beilein. "And that's been -- that's one of the things that I think if he's going to play in the pros one day, that was one of the things -- he's a stretch four at that level. Stretch fours have to, they certainly have to rebound. And he's really shown some great growth there."

When Michigan played yesterday, it took them 30 minutes to hit a shot outside the paint. Wagner's triple with 18:18 left in the first half eliminated the possibility of a repeat early and the Wolverines went on to torch the nets. Michigan went 11-for-23 from beyond the arc with Wagner (2-for-4), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (a perfect 5-or-5), and Duncan Robinson (4-for-7) accounting for all the makes.


Z repeatedly worked his way to the bucket and converted. [Campredon]

Those three combined for 57 points. Zavier Simpson, showing an impressive array of finishes off the bounce, chipped in 12 points, making 4-of-8 field goals and all four(!) of his free throws while adding a game-high six assists. No other Wolverine hit a shot from the field until a meaningless Jordan Poole putback in the final minute.

Outside of a rough game from Poole (1-for-9 from the field), that was more indicative of the main guys carrying the load than a poor performance from anyone else. Nebraska tried ditching their previously effective all-switch man defense in favor of an extended 1-3-1 zone before the first half even ended. That didn't hold up for long; any attempts to go zone in the second stanza were bombarded.

"I think we've just seen it a lot more," Adbur-Rahkman. "As of late, teams have been trying to switch out their defenses against us. And I think we were just more comfortable with it today and we just picked our poison within our offense and found open shots in slots."

Meanwhile, one holdover from yesterday was Michigan's salty defense, which held the Huskers to .866 points per possession. After Nebraska made four of their first five out of the game, the defense went on full lockdown, forcing misses on 19 of their ensuing 20 shots. The Huskers barely scraped above 30% shooting for the game and had to resort to flinging themselves at the hoop in the hopes of drawing fouls; while that worked to an extent—they went 22-for-27 from the line—it couldn't keep their offense afloat.


Nope. [Campredon]

Wagner, Jon Teske, and Charles Matthews blocked two shots apiece. Simpson harrassed point guard Glynn Watson in a 4-for-12 shooting day with two turnovers canceling out two assists. James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby each managed to score 16 points but combined to go 7-for-18 from the field. There were few easy looks, whether at the basket or beyond the arc.

Heck, the game went so well that Michigan even got an excellent six-minute stint out of Ibi Watson in the first half. Coming off seven straight wins and nine of their last ten, the Wolverines will face Michigan State in tomorrow's 2 pm ET semifinal. There's little need to pump up that game, especially with the Spartans looking to avenge a loss on their home floor in this season's only meeting so far.

"It's going to be a challenge again tomorrow," said Beilein. "But we're better defensively than we were back then. But they're probably better offensively. So who knows what's going to happen."

[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]

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Michigan 52, Northwestern 61

Michigan 52, Northwestern 61 Comment Count

Seth February 6th, 2018 at 9:53 PM

image

[photo: J.D. Scott (@jdscottphoto)]

They say you have to make your shots to win in basketball, and Michigan went nearly 10 minutes in the second half without a field goal. They say Bryant McIntosh is going to distribute well but not carry the offense, and Northwestern went nearly 10 minutes in the second half with nobody but McIntosh scoring. And when McIntosh found himself isolated on Mo Wagner, picked his moment, drove, and scored his 14th point in a row, they said it’s not over, though I haven’t the faintest idea why.

On Michigan’s next possession Charles Matthews—who put up a brutal 56 ORtg while using a quarter of Michigan’s possessions in this game according to Kenpom—took a terrible step-back long two that bounced out with zero chance of a friendly rebound. That made it a minute left with the Wildcats up 58-52. And unlike some people, Northwestern makes their free throws.

For the first time in weeks it was Michigan who started hot, breaking down the Northwestern zone defense early with transition baskets and getting Mo moving through the lane. However the early 9-1 run was costly, as Isaiah Livers fell awkwardly on his left foot after a layup. He would not return.

Absent Livers, and with Matthews having an awful night, Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson played more than normal minutes. Neither had the kind of shooting night that can make up for their respective defensive issues. Northwestern climbed back after that by crashing the boards, but still managed to head off Michigan’s constant attempts to push the floor. The Wildcats also soon found the chink in Michigan’s defense as cross-court passes got a bunch of open looks from three; only half went in, but it provided enough offense to get them to the end of the first half down one possession.

Northwestern flipped the script in the second half, going on a 10-0 run after a hard foul by Gavin Skelly that the officials waved off after a lengthy review (Look, Steratore loves his reviews, okay?) From there it was McIntosh. Matthews’s drive attempts were definitively suppressed, forcing a batch of turnovers to extend the drought. Michigan finished an abysmal 5/22 from three-point range, with only a few more Mo cuts to the basket and your standard crazy MAAR drive-whistles forcing a rare change in Michigan’s tally.

They say this happens to everybody on the road, even if “road” was a 50/50 abandoned building next to the airport. I say if you’re a three-reliant team hitting under 23% from the arc and Bryant McIntosh turns into Trey Burke it’s probably just not your night.

[Click the JUMP for the boxscore—lol no you’re not reading that box score you’re going to make basketball comments]

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Michigan 58, Northwestern 47

Michigan 58, Northwestern 47 Comment Count

Ace January 29th, 2018 at 9:48 PM


After a slow start, Michigan eventually ran away from Northwestern. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In a game that will be memorable only for being forgettable, Michigan slowly pulled away from Northwestern after a close, repulsive first half.

The Wildcats inched their way out to an early nine-point lead by hitting the occasional shot while the Wolverines were completely befuddled by Northwestern's matchup zone, choosing mostly to shoot over it to no avail. Michigan scored only five points in the game's first ten minutes. They went 3-for-15 on three-pointers in the opening stanza with two of those makes coming in a late 10-0 run to close the half.

Northwestern couldn't capitalize, however, because Michigan's defense was every bit as stingy. After a quick start, they scored five points over the final 13 minutes of the half, including a seven-minute scoreless stretch to end it.

Given halftime to adjust, John Beilein's squad figured out the zone, scoring 1.19 point per possession in the second half. Charles Matthews repeatedly cut to wide open space on the baseline, finishing with a team-high 14 points on 11 shots with seven rebounds and three steals. Great ball movement led to 4-for-10 three-point shooting on a series of wide-open looks.


While Michigan warmed up, Northwestern struggled to get good looks. [Campredon]

Unlike their foe, Michigan held up on defense, keeping Northwestern well below a point per possession with turnovers on over a quarter of them for the second straight half. Over the whole game, they held the Wildcats to their third-worst offensive performance of the season.

Michigan won comfortably with a balanced attack. Five players finished with at least eight points, including the increasingly used backcourt duo of Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman and Jordan Poole; both also dished out three assists apiece with no turnovers, and Poole whipped around some really impressive passes that didn't immediately lead to buckets. (Related: we'll see that backcourt more in certain late-game situations.) Moe Wagner scored all eight of points in the second half and did strong work on the boards all evening; Jon Teske, meanwhile, grabbed five rebounds in just 11 minutes.

After the initial zone adjustment period, there were only two major downsides. While Duncan Robinson managed to sneak into the gaps for eight points, he missed all six of his threes despite some really good looks. Then, in the game's final moments, Zavier Simpson took a hard shot to the back when Isaiah Livers failed to alert him to Dererk Pardon's oncoming screen. Simpson spent a possession down at midcourt before eventually walking off; he was in obvious pain on the bench, but hopefully it's not something that lingers.

At 7-4 in the Big Ten, Michigan moves into a tie for fourth place with Nebraska. They get the rest of the week to prepare for a plummeting Minnesota squad to come to Crisler on Saturday afternoon.

[Hit THE JUMP for a few more of MG's photos and the box score.]

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Purdue 92, Michigan 88

Purdue 92, Michigan 88 Comment Count

Ace January 25th, 2018 at 9:43 PM

Sometimes you face a normal foe. Sometimes you face a fleet of T-Rexes in F-15s firing with maximum precision. When facing the latter, especially in their territory, the margin for error is terrifyingly thin.

For the better part of 40 minutes, Michigan held their own with the Purdue T-Rexes in F-15s, with Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman playing the role of dinosaur hunter. A MAAR three-point strike, part of a scorching second-half start for both teams, even gave the road underdogs a lead with under ten minutes to play. It was the game's 23rd lead change.

Vince Edwards countered for the 24th and final lead change. T-Rexes in F-15s are unrelenting; Michigan's few mistakes finally exposed them late. Some turnovers from Jaaron Simmons or Charles Matthews here, some missed free throws from MAAR or Zavier Simpson there, and the T-Rexes successfully repelled the rebel forces.

I've very much enjoyed watching Michigan-Purdue basketball games. I'm also very much ready for all those dudes to graduate and Carsen Edwards to go pro.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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Michigan 52, Nebraska 72

Michigan 52, Nebraska 72 Comment Count

Seth January 18th, 2018 at 11:48 PM

STOP! You can choose to read a recap of Michigan’s 72-52 loss to Nebraska, OR you can do literally anything else. I’ll give you 30 seconds of a drone flying over a Nebraska cornfield to decide.

there is corn in it

Okay, now that all the people who make good life decisions are gone I can tell you that after 53 years Nebraska finally beat Michigan in basketball that one time.

What happened? The main thing was the Huskers’ constantly switching, handsy defense stymied every iteration of Michigan’s offense and led to an uncharacteristic boatload of turnovers—twelve overall, nine(!!!) in the first half. At one point UMHoops tweeted Michigan was coughing it up on 40 percent of their possessions.

Against an opponent that relies on transition and getting fouled at the rim to run an efficient offense, that alone should have been a death sentence, but some tip-back offensive rebounding kept the margin to just eleven at the break. That kind of first half after a 9:12 p.m. tip would make a reasonable person put the bag labeled “Dead Dove Do Not Eat” back in the fridge and go to bed. But Michigan came back from ten just a few nights ago, and from four a couple nights before that, and down seven a few nights before that, and…and…and man we’ve had a lot of basketball.

You can try to find a reason MAAR went 3/11 from the field, why the team went 4/18 from three despite nearly all of them being good looks, why Nebraska’s normally crummy shooters were getting makes off bad shots, why Livers let Isaiah Roby walk away with a 93 eFG%, or why Nebraska fans chose to chant “Wagner” of all things. Or you can chalk it up to a road game near the end of a compact, vicious part of the schedule when nothing could go right (except doubling up on them in the OREB battle) and move on.

Michigan’s coming off a ten-point win in Breslin, a big comeback victory versus Maryland, and a classic versus Purdue. Their tourney bid is secure barring a collapse. They get Rutgers on Sunday, and every opponent on the rest of the schedule will be practicing a ton of switching this week. They’ll probably be alright.

[After THE JUMP box score also WARNING THERE’S A DEAD DOVE DO NOT CLICK]

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Michigan 68, Maryland 67

Michigan 68, Maryland 67 Comment Count

Seth January 15th, 2018 at 9:50 PM

image

sure.

It was your typical trap game. Playing 51 hours after a season-defining road win in East Lansing, Beilein’s clearly exhausted Michigan squad barely scraped together 20 points in the first half. Then, as trap games go, they erased the 10-point deficit right out of the break, pushed it to a 10-point lead thanks to a little-used freshman sparkplug, lost the 10-point lead, went down by 1 point with 3.5 seconds, and won on two MAAR free throws, just another couple of points in a career that’s seen a thousand of them.

Michigan certainly came out like they’d just played the biggest game of their season two days ago, missing layups, dunks and open threes as the Terps opened a 30-20 deficit at the half. In the frame the Wolverines shot just 31% from the field without getting to the line. MAAR in particular was scuffling,

Maryland, on five days rest, was able to collect a few early buckets in transition and capitalize on more than a few bounces. Michigan played strong defense, forcing the Terps to use the entire shot clock and take five desperation heaves—their eight points off of those low-percentage attempts were most of the 10-point difference in the half.

As Mr. Bridges noted after Saturday’s game, Michigan doesn’t really focus on toughness. Yet for the second time in three days these non-toughness-focusing players erased a halftime deficit out of the break. Zavier Simpson sparked the comeback with a few brilliant series, one a defensive set in which he cut off an Anthony Cowan drive, fought through a screen, knocked the ball out of bounds, assisted on a bad shot, and collected the rebound. Down three Z drove the length of the court, released a floater from the top of the paint, and sank the and-one to tie it 30-30.

Then in came Jordan Poole.

4O6A3762

“Poole’s B1G eFG%: 70.6” —Ace  [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

If the Purdue game was a taste, this was a coming out party for Michigan’s (arguably) most talented freshman. Poole immediately showed his characteristic awareness for the arc. In one sequence he sank a transition three, blocked a Maryland attempt at the same, and got back down to deliver Z’s drive and kick. In minutes Michigan had a 45-41 lead. Later he’d hint at his ceiling as a creator with a beautiful bounce-pass that set up a Teske and-one and pushed Michigan’s lead to 8.

With Z’s backups struggling and Poole hot, Beilein experimented with a MAAR-Poole-Matthews lineup. This didn’t look bad—it got Wagner an open top of the key 3PA (he missed). It also opened up transition lanes for Maryland. A pair of Wagner free throw misses and a small Maryland run on two crazy buckets forced a timeout with the lead cut to four, setting up the ho hum finish.

Under two minutes, MAAR missed a layup and Wagner picked up a foul on a rebound as Maryland cut Michigan’s lead to 2 with 1:19 remaining. On the ensuing possession Matthews fought his way out of a trap, and Michigan passed it around the horn to get MAAR an open three and Michigan a two-point lead. The teams then traded layups, then with 20 seconds left Cowan sank an improbable line drive three, Z missed a pair of free throws, and Kevin Heurter sank one of his signature ladder triples to put Maryland ahead a point with 3.5 seconds left.

In typical trap game fashion, Isaiah Livers hit MAAR on a perfect deep flag route. Abdur-Rahkman, at 998 career points, tripped over a Terp and picked up the foul. The rest was academic.

Michigan escapes their murderous stretch at 2-1 (that shoulda been 3-0) with a tournament resume, and now has a few days to rest before their Thursday tilt in Lincoln, followed by Rutgers at home.

[After the jump: a box score, more photos by MG, some favorite tweets, and at some point you might want to breathe]

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Michigan 79, Illinois 69

Michigan 79, Illinois 69 Comment Count

Seth January 6th, 2018 at 3:04 PM

4O6A1240

[Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Kenpom said Michigan would win by 10, and lo and behold Michigan won by 10. Matthews hit all of his shots (except the free throws) and Wagner scored in double digits for the first time since his ankle injury, driving the lane against an overmatched opponent.

I’m telling you that up front in case you watched the first 12 minutes and decided to go build that dresser for your mother in law or something.

I can’t blame you if you did, since the first quarter of this game was some of the ugliest basketball all year. Michigan came out looking not at all ready for the constant pressure a Brad Underwood team puts on opponents, turning the ball over 12 times—one third of their first half possessions. Even more lost than Michigan’s backcourt were the referees, who were calling everything and nothing, including eight rather tacky offensive fouls (six on Michigan). Charles Matthews picked up two such early whistles and spent most of the half on the bench. Illinois quickly went on a 9-2 run to take a 17-9 lead, helped by two big corner threes by freshman Mark Smith.

Beilein countered with a Poole-Livers lineup, wherein Isaiah Livers starting dunking everything in sight. Michigan finally retook the lead on a quick upcourt pass from Zavier Simpson to Jordan Poole set up outside the arc. The poor lone Illinois defender can be forgiven for thinking this would be an immediate shot—I mean, it’s Poole—but nah:

via Ace

Jaaron Simmons took over point after an Illinois timeout and the Illini climbed back to a 34-31 halftime lead that felt as flimsy as a mail order dresser held together by three cam screws in a quarter inch of particle board.

As play resumed, that lead disappeared in seconds as Michigan settled into the team they’d been since mid-December. The Illini couldn’t prevent Matthews from burning their perimeter defenders, and once Charles sat with a third foul, Poole offered a pair of threes to put the Wolverines up by double digits, with MAAR and Wagner closing it out as they do.

4O6A1402

as he do. [Marc-Grégor Campredon]

Zavier Simpson started and played 32 minutes, including all 20 minutes of the second half. Despite the early turnovers—he’d finish with five—he continued to demonstrate the #1 job is his, setting up Michigan’s best offensive possessions with some superb outlet passes—the resulting 10 points off fast breaks made up the Kenpom-predicted difference between these two teams. Brooks and Simmons finished with three turnovers and two assists in 8 minutes. Even Z’s missed open corner three was a rim-out that felt good off the release. Given how bad the start of this game was, it’s good to walk away with that confidence still intact.

This Illinois team could be dangerous in a year or two. Like his Oklahoma State team remembered from last year’s tournament, Underwood’s offense is good at making your centers look the wrong way before a lethal backdoor cut. When the fakes and motion didn’t work, Michigan was able to win a battle of athleticism with just about every lineup.

Whatever you went into this game believing you can probably find something from it to support that claim. I mostly believe what Ace tells me, so my eyes tell me Charles Matthews is still Michigan’s best player, Teske is a major improvement from last year as a backup to Mo, Wagner is slowly coming back to form, Livers and Poole are starting to become bigger contributors, MAAR is who he is, Simpson is fine, and this Michigan team is rounding into the kind that no #1 or #2 seed wants to face but has to thanks to bad RPI gaming.

Oh, and cam screws are awful and furniture that relies on them should be shot into the sun.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score and an amazing photo series by MG of the dunk.]

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Michigan 75, Iowa 68

Michigan 75, Iowa 68 Comment Count

Ace January 2nd, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The first six minutes of the conference re-opener against Iowa were an ugly slog. Eli Brooks committed a turnover on the team's first possession trying to fit an entry pass to Charles Matthews. Moe Wagner coughed up two turnovers and committed a foul, hitting the bench early. Wagner and Duncan Robinson had a tough time containing Iowa forward Tyler Cook, who opened the game with a Wagner-like behind-the-back dribble and dunk.

As Charles Matthews split a pair of free throws to cut Iowa's lead to 10-8 with 13:43 to go in the first half, John Beilein sent in Zavier Simpson and Isaiah Livers to replace Brooks and Robinson. It paid off immediately. Jon Teske, in for Wagner, rebounded the second free throw; the ball found its way to Livers, who dropped it off to Teske for an open midrange jumper.

Livers or Simpson were involved in Michigan's next four baskets to give the Wolverines a comfortable lead, and the two maintained a high level of play for the duration. Simpson was a bona-fide scoring threat, leading the team with 15 points on ten shot equivalents as he kept Iowa off-balance with aggressive forays to the basket and smooth spot-up threes. He also ran the offense beautifully, dishing out seven assists with no turnovers, and came up with two steals while playing his usual intense defense.

Livers, meanwhile, had the best game of his young career. While he scored 13 points, made all three of his three-point attempts, and added two rebounds, three assists, and two steals, his impact went beyond his stat line. While Michigan never slowed down Cook, who scored a game-high 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting, the presence of Livers greatly improved the overall defense. With Livers also shooting better than Robinson, Beilein went with the freshman for most of the game, playing him 27 minutes. While one-game plus-minus stats can be misleading, it's impossible to ignore that Livers finished a game-high +23 while Robinson was -18. There was a similarly sizeable split (+14 to -7) between Simpson and Brooks.

With those two leading the way, Michigan pushed the lead as high as 15 points in the first half and 17 in the the second. They took their foot off the gas early, allowing the Hawkeyes to get within single digits in the very late going, but they were never in danger of losing.

There is some danger in taking too much away from this game; Iowa is now 0-3 in the conference and, beyond Cook, looked to be at a significant talent deficit. That said, Simpson wasn't doing this kind of stuff against anyone last year, and Livers finally getting his outside shots to fall could be the key to getting Robinson back to the sixth man role to which he's best suited.

The team's ball movement tonight was as good as it's been all season; they had 18 assists on 28 field goals and ripped apart Iowa's zone when they attempted a defensive changeup. They won on the road in a conference game despite getting almost nothing (4 points, 2/6 FG, 2 TO) from Wagner. The reliable playmaking of Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman (15 points, six assists) and Charles Matthews (14 points) went a long way towards covering for that lack of production.

Those are significant developments, even against a team that doesn't look like it'll get any sort of postseason action. A John Beilein team with a true score-pass threat at the point is a dangerous thing indeed; ditto one that can field a lineup with the athleticism and defensive potential of, say, Simpson-MAAR-Matthews-Livers-Teske without seeing a significant drop in shooting ability. This team is taking shape, and they're looking dangerous.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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Michigan 76, Jacksonville 51

Michigan 76, Jacksonville 51 Comment Count

Ace December 30th, 2017 at 8:09 PM


Michigan: bigger and better than Jacksonville. [James Coller]

Michigan tested John Beilein's patience, coughing up ten first-half turnovers. Jacksonville tested the structural integrity of the Crisler Center baskets, when they hit them at all. The Wolverines, led by standout performances from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (20 points) and Charles Matthews (18 points, 7 rebounds), eventually cruised to an easy victory.

Notes:

  • Moe Wagner, who started in his first appearance since rolling his ankle against Texas, took even longer to shake off the rust than the rest of his teammates. He moved well, however, and got into the rhythm of the game in the second half, when he scored all seven of his points.
  • Abdur-Rahkman proved unstoppable, making all eight shots from the field on his way to a team-high 20 points. He could score at the rim whenever he wanted.
  • Rotation watch: Ibi Watson played only four minutes before getting pulled following an ugly step-in two that drew Beilein's ire. Eli Brooks remained the starter with Zavier Simpson getting nearly equal time; Jaaron Simmons didn't enter until the final minutes. Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers each played 12 minutes.
  • Poole went on a personal 8-2 run late with a couple threes and a slick layup in traffic.
  • Jacksonville had, by my count, four first-half airballs.
  • Penn State held on to beat Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, keeping the Big Ten perfect in bowl games. You probably know this because that's what you were watching.
  • The Wisconsin-Miami game is on ESPN right now. You're probably already watching it.
  • Michigan gets a very quick turnaround, heading to Iowa (9-6, 0-2 Big Ten) to resume conference play on Tuesday evening (7 pm, ESPN2).

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]

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