Michigan 72, Penn State 69

Michigan 72, Penn State 69

Submitted by Ace on January 4th, 2017 at 11:36 PM

Walton's play in transition late sparked M's comeback. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

It wasn't impressive, or encouraging, or—at least for the first 30 minutes or so—fun, but Michigan pulled their proverbial asses out of the fire with a strong finish against Penn State, closing the game with a 30-15 run to erase a 14-point deficit and steal much-needed conference win.

"Their seniors made plays at the end," said PSU coach Pat Chambers.

"They got the stops when they needed," he added. "That's what senior-led teams do."

"Our seniors, who were not on their 'A' game, were nothing short of spectacular in the last four minutes," John Beilein concurred.

You, Michigan fan, may have cocked an eyebrow at those statements. For tonight, at least, they held true. While they struggled for most of the game, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton both came up big down the stretch. Walton nailed a three to pull Michigan within one, then fed DJ Wilson on a fast break for the go-ahead alley-oop. When PSU's Lamar Stevens grabbed the lead back with a jumper, Irvin answered with his pet midrange shot. Walton extended the lead at the free-throw line, Irvin drilled a tough stepback shot, and the two combined to ice the game at the line, going 6/6 in the waning moments to fend off PSU's comeback effort.

The game proved frustrating at times for both coaches. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Wolverines didn't open the game nearly as well as they closed it, of course. This was a boring slog for a half-hour of game time. Penn State got into the paint time and again, while Michigan couldn't do the same or hit their outside shots, going 1-for-9 from three-point range in the first half.

"They drove us wherever they wanted to in the first half," said John Beilein. "And we let them."

The second stanza began much the same way; PSU's first two buckets came in the paint before three straight triples extended the lead to 14. The turning point, according to Beilein, came during an emotional huddle at the under-12 media timeout.

"I didn't have to say anything," Beilein said. "It was all, the circle that I was in, they were all extremely charged up and upset at each other. And I'm not meaning pointing fingers [at each other], they were very encouraging, and very strong words that, no, we're not losing this game. We're not starting off in the league 0 and 2. We're going to make this happen."

Duncan Robinson entered the game shortly after that timeout and proceeded to account for a five-point run of his own with two shots to cut the deficit to eight. The Wolverines steadily chipped away at the lead from there, benefiting from some PSU turnovers to get out in transition for easy points. Then the seniors closed it out.

The season can take two forms from here. Michigan can carry the emotion from that huddle over to the rest of the Big Ten schedule and fight their way into the tournament, or they can play the listless brand of basketball we saw for much of this game and settle for an NIT bid. Only time will tell.

Iowa 86, Michigan 83 (OT)

Iowa 86, Michigan 83 (OT)

Submitted by Ace on January 1st, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Look past the final result and you can see this year's Michigan squad taking shape. Derrick Walton is more off-guard than point guard. Zak Irvin, filling the void, is a point-forward. Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson are the team's two best players. Duncan Robinson's offense has moved him past Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman in everything but the starting lineup.

Wilson starred for much of this game, the best of his career thus far. In 44 minutes, he scored 28 points, made 7/10 twos and 4/8 threes, grabbed 14 rebounds (six offensive), dished out six assists to only one turnover, and added a block for good measure. Wagner also looked excellent, scoring 12 points on ten shots while playing disruptive defense that resulted in a block and three steals. This was a glimpse into a pretty exciting future:

Those two will eventually be the go-to players on this team. This afternoon, however, their relative inexperience in those roles showed in overtime. Wagner missed a corner three on Michigan's first overtime possession when it appeared he had an open lane to roll to the basket instead of popping out the perimeter. Wilson badly missed his two three-point attempts in the extra session, including a rushed shot with plenty of time left on M's final possession that bonked off the backboard; while M corralled the rebound, Zak Irvin lost the ball on his game-tying attempt and Wagner's desperate volley from two-point range had no effect on the outcome.

While Michigan had the advantage up front, Iowa's backcourt, especially Peter Jok, held a similar edge. Jok poured in 25 points. Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon outplayed Walton, posting 17 points and six assists with no turnovers and a couple huge shots late in the game. Irvin distributed the ball well in the first half when his shot wasn't falling, then committed a few costly turnovers in the second half and overtime when he finally regained his scoring touch. With Robinson only going 3/9 from beyond the arc and MAAR disappearing entirely, Michigan needed more efficiency from their senior guards.

They didn't quite get enough. Michigan starts 0-1 in Big Ten play, and while they have four very winnable games ahead of them on the schedule, they missed a great chance to tally a rare conference road win this afternoon.

Michigan 68, Furman 62

Michigan 68, Furman 62

Submitted by Ace on December 22nd, 2016 at 9:09 PM

Derrick Walton's game-sealing three came after Michigan had missed their previous 12 attempts from beyond the arc. Michigan's narrow win over Furman was a 60-possession slog that was hard to watch outside of the two highlights above.

Moe Wagner (18 points on 16 FGA, five offensive boards) and Zak Irvin (16 points on 14 FGA, seven assists) were just effective enough on offense for this game to remain tight throughout even though the Wolverines couldn't buy a long-range jumper. It'd be easy to pin a game this ugly on the dead winter-break atmosphere and players looking ahead to the holidays; this was more Michigan missing a bunch of open looks in a painfully slow-paced game.

The Wolverines now get a significant break before their Big Ten season tips off at Iowa on January 1st. After tonight's game, we could all use some time off from basketball.

UCLA 102, Michigan 84

UCLA 102, Michigan 84

Submitted by Ace on December 10th, 2016 at 10:40 PM

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.

Virginia Tech 73, Michigan 70

Virginia Tech 73, Michigan 70

Submitted by Ace on November 30th, 2016 at 10:10 PM

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."

South Carolina 61, Michigan 46

South Carolina 61, Michigan 46

Submitted by Ace on November 23rd, 2016 at 7:19 PM

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.

Michigan 76, SMU 54

Michigan 76, SMU 54

Submitted by Ace on November 18th, 2016 at 9:32 PM

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.

Armstrong State Bullets

Armstrong State Bullets

Submitted by Ace on November 4th, 2016 at 9:37 PM

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.

Michigan 67, Tulsa 62

Michigan 67, Tulsa 62

Submitted by Ace on March 16th, 2016 at 11:58 PM

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...

...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.

Purdue 76, Michigan 59

Purdue 76, Michigan 59

Submitted by Ace on March 12th, 2016 at 3:38 PM

AJ Hammons celebrates Purdue's victory.

Midway through the second half, CBS cut to a shot of John Beilein giving Moe Wagner an on-the-fly lesson on post defense. Wagner had just committed a shooting foul on Purdue center Isaac Haas and was subsequently pulled for Ricky Doyle.

On Purdue's ensuing possession, Haas bullied Doyle down low and drew another shooting foul. Any lessons Beilein gave out this afternoon came far too late to salvage Michigan's chances of reaching the Big Ten final and locking up an at-large bid.

Instead, it'll be a stressful Selection Sunday after the Boilermakers dominated the Wolverines in the paint. Michigan played all four of their centers; none provided resistance to the fearsome duo of Haas and AJ Hammons. Hammons finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks; Haas added 11 points in only nine minutes. Michigan's big men combined for ten points—seven by Mark Donnal, who played only 15 minutes due to foul trouble—and four boards.

Purdue opened each half with a big run—8-0 to start the game, 9-0 to open the second half—and whenever Michigan threatened to close the gap, the Boilermakers beat them back with dominant post play; Purdue scored 44 points in the paint to Michigan's 28. Despite being overwhelmed on the interior, the Wolverines frustratingly declined to double-team Purdue's big men until less than four minutes remained; when they finally did so on Hammons, the double was weak, and a few quick passes around the perimeter resulted in a Rapheal Davis layup.

Derrick Walton (14 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) and Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman (15 points, 7/11 FG) did their best to overcome Purdue's considerable advantage inside. They got little help. Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson shot 2/12 combined from three-point range; the Wolverines were 6/25 as a team. The Boilermakers made two fewer three-pointers—on 13 fewer attempts.

Now Michigan, which entered today as the last at-large in the field on the Bracket Matrix, will nervously await their postseason fate.