Michigan 58, Michigan State 57

Submitted by Ace on March 3rd, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

Trey Burke's legs were failing him. He'd just missed a jumper, and on the ensuing Michigan State fast break he couldn't get back to close out on Gary Harris—while Harris missed the open three, Michigan's discombobulated defense couldn't keep Derrick Nix from hitting the putback.

The basket cut the Wolverine lead to four with just over six minutes to play, and the only Wolverine to consistently produce offensively appeared to be running on fumes.

On the very next possession, Burke found a way past MSU's Keith Appling for another layup. He'd score six more points to close out the game, and of course came up with two steals to seal a classic nailbiter against Michigan's chief basketball rival. The only Wolverine with more than four made field goals, Burke ground his way to 21 points on 8/17 shooting with eight assists, two turnovers, and five(!) steals. As if that wasn't enough, he held Appling to nine points on nine shots.

The lasting images of this game will be Burke's pickpocketing of Appling at midcourt, subsequent breakaway dunk, his jubilant—and yes, just a bit mocking—slapping of the floor (left, Upchurch), and his final swipe of Gary Harris to end the game. For me, though, it will be him trying, and failing, to get back on Harris, only to dig into the deepest recesses of his soul and find the energy to pull out the win.

Michigan's chances to win took a huge blow just four minutes into the game, when an errant elbow from Branden Dawson caught Nik Stauskas flush above the eye, opening up a nasty cut that required 12 stitches and left the Wolverines without their best outside shooter. Not coincidentally, Michigan missed all 12 of their three-point attempts in the game. Miraculously, this didn't spell their demise.

That had much to do with Michigan's much-maligned big men. Jordan Morgan, who barely played in the first contest between these two, hounded Spartan forward Derrick Nix into six turnovers with stellar on-ball defense and several drawn charges. Mitch McGary scored 11 points off the bench (4/6 from the field) with three offensive rebounds, bringing the team much-needed energy and even hitting a couple clutch free throws down the stretch (yes, he also missed the front end of a one-and-one and had a critical late turnover, though it appeared the latter was a botched call, by no means the only one in this game).

With Stauskas absent, Caris LeVert was forced to take on a big role and came through as well as one could ask of a rail-thin freshman in a tight, physical contest. While he missed all three of his shots from downtown, he hit 4/8 two-pointers—including a pretty up-and-under at the first half buzzer to cut Michigan's halftime deficit to three—and played solid perimeter defense. Fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III chipped in eight points (4/6 field goals), and unlike the first game the Spartans couldn't take advantage of his interior defense, in large part because John Beilein did his best to play two bigs when Nix and Adreian Payne were both on the floor.

There were struggles, of course. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored just six points on 3/12 shooting and had three turnovers, looking like the scuffling Hardaway of last year. In the first half, the Spartans rebounded ten of their 20 missed shots, and the Wolverines' inability to keep them off the glass opened up the perimeter—State took advantage by hitting 5/11 first-half threes. A late five-point possession for MSU featured an and-one and two offensive rebounds, cutting a ten-point lead in half when it appeared the Wolverines could cruise to victory.

In the end, though, it was Burke's day. Even with the gas tank perilously close to empty, Burke staked his claim as the best player in the country. In doing so, he not only kept the Wolverines from going into a tailspin, but propelled them to second place in the Big Ten, with an outside—but very real—chance that next Sunday's game against Indiana will be for a share of the conference crown.

The final stat line may not be as gaudy as some of his others, but this was Trey Burke's entry into Michigan basketball lore. Slap the floor—the Wolverines aren't done defending their Big Ten title.



March 3rd, 2013 at 8:01 PM ^

After MSU  went slap the floor Burke took it right at Appling for an easy 2.   Did anyone catch Morgan slapping the floor as the ball went thru the hoop?  Pretty funny.

Dutch Ferbert

March 3rd, 2013 at 8:05 PM ^

I normally hate taunting and cocky shit like that...but it just seemed so right against MSU.

Someone needs to make some kind of slapping the floor t-shirt for the mgostore.

4 out of the last 6 against MSU feels nice.


March 3rd, 2013 at 8:05 PM ^

Trey Burke definitely entered his name in the memory bank with the pickpocket of Appling and saving steal.

While he's one of the smaller guys in the whole B1G, Burke battles every game and every possession.  

Who would have guessed that UM wins with 0-12 from 3 and 2 huge defensive stands in the last 20 seconds?

Classic irony.


March 3rd, 2013 at 8:17 PM ^

Or was it a blessing in disguise?  LaVert's defense (2 steals and a lot of energy) could easily have been more valuable than Stauskas' floor spacing.  MSU's wing players weren't nearly as effective as last game and I'd say LaVert had a big role in that.

Yeah, 0-12 from 3, but half of that is Hardaway and Burke missing shots they normally hit.  The only place Stauskas absence was felt was increased reliance on Vogrich and Albrecht.

I know this blog has been showering Stauskas with praise all year and he's the kind of player a lot of fans get behind,but right now - Michigan may well be better off with LaVert permanently taking Nik's starting job, using Nik instead as a 6th-man/scorer.



March 3rd, 2013 at 9:30 PM ^

Sounds about right - maybe a little more.  There's roughly 45 minutes available between LeVert and Nik and I think that Nik might deserve more than half against most teams. IMO,  25/20 is a better split than the current 31/11 average.

Being a starter is largely a symbolic thing, but I think early in games Michigan might be better off setting a defensive tone with LaVert. It could give him an identity as a defensive stopper who supports the Burke/Hardaway-focused offense without needing touches. 

It may benefit Nik as well, as bench players are less likely to exploit Nik on the defensive end.  Offensively, he can fire away as a bench player who is inserted whenever Hardaway or Burke are out.  Besides, coming off the bench doesn't preclude him from finishing games.


March 3rd, 2013 at 8:39 PM ^

I definitely had this feeling too.. the D seemed much better than what they've played against anyone recently, maybe it's just a coincidence and maybe not.  Both Stauskas and LeVert have lots of things to work on right now, and I'm not sure it's a huge downgrade net-net to have LeVert out there rather than Stauskas right now.


March 4th, 2013 at 6:15 AM ^

Lets not get too carried away. Nik leads us in +/- average and has been in the positive in every game except for @OSU and @MSU

Caris has struggled at times including the last game against Penn State (-7) and in 20 games played has been in the negetive 5 times and zero 3 times.


March 4th, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

all or most of the cedit for the great team defense.  Certainly, he is a better defensive player than Nik, but I think the reason UM was stronger defensively was because the WHOLE team made it the major part of the game plan.

As for who should start and who gets what minutes, I think Beilein is the best judge of that.


March 3rd, 2013 at 8:19 PM ^

In case you were not aware the broadcasting crew brought up a point I had never heard.  Can you believe that Beilien has never been an assistant coach?  What an odd, quirky thing.   To think he's been here 6 years and this is the 1st I've heard of this.


Other things you may or may not know.

Stauskas is more than just a shooter

Burke is the 1st B1G player since Magic to average 17-7.

Hoke likes to play physical

Every defenisve recruit in the front 7 is going to be Terrel Suggs or Ray Lewis.


March 3rd, 2013 at 8:25 PM ^

I was gonna say, that's like one of the those things like stauskas is more than a three point shooter, but you covered it.

Also, don't forget all secondary recruits can be the next Ed Reed.


March 3rd, 2013 at 10:15 PM ^

I'm a little surprised by some of these answers. Reading them I would assume most haven't played basketball, but one mentions doing this on his high school team. I thought everyone knew what slapping the floor is about:

The best desfense is always played with your feet ~ playing quick laterally and beating the offensive player to the spot on the floor. This cannot be done standing up and it takes a ton of energy to do it consistently. Slapping the floor puts you in that defensive mode both physically by getting you low and wide and mentally by focusing you on the energy that you will be determined to spend on the upcoming defensive possesion.

When you are tired, it is very easy to stand up straight. When slapping the floor, it sets the stage for your defensive possesion. It actually really works; try it.

Ann Arbor Cardinal

March 3rd, 2013 at 11:27 PM ^

But I bet the origins on something like this are going to be much more murky than you allow for. Maybe in some high school somewhere decades ago, a guy was all hyped up near the end of a close, intense game, and in the moment, he slapped the floor. Maybe his teammates liked it, and did it as well once in a while. Maybe another coach saw that, noticed the benefits you describe, and encouraged his team to do it. Then at some point a better-known team picked up the habit, so more people became aware of it. Or whatever.

My point is that you do a good job describing why there's a legitimate basketball reason a team would do it, perhaps even why MSU does it. But a thing's origin doesn't have to make sense.


March 4th, 2013 at 4:31 AM ^

True.  I guess I'm saying something like this probably doesn't have an exact origin.  It's basketball.  Sometimes we can find the origin of things such as the dunk or behind the back pass, but things that are less flashy?  Probably not.  It was probably done by folks from all over, for probably quite a while after the game became more of a speed game in the 80s and when defensive posture became even more important.  I could be wrong, but I don't think there was an origin that anyone really knows.  It might be Duke that many of us remember seeing it, but that also might be b/c Duke left a pretty strong impression on many of us b/c they always won (damn them) and many of us came into basketball those days.

snarling wolverine

March 4th, 2013 at 6:58 AM ^

I played basketball, and our HS coach used to make us slap the floor, but I don't think it really gave us any kind of advantage.  (You really want your hands up in the passing lane, not down on the floor, so if you don't do it fast enough it can actually hurt your D.)  I think it's more just a reminder to get low into a defensive stance.



March 4th, 2013 at 7:55 AM ^

I'm a little surprised by some of these answers. Reading them I would assume most haven't played basketball, but one mentions doing this on his high school team

Eh, we didn't all play the fancy-pants point guard position.  I was a post player (at 6'2" - we had a significant lack of height on our team) and we didn't do any floor-slapping business. Post D is a whole other animal.