Michigan 78, UCLA 69 (OT)

Submitted by Ace on December 9th, 2017 at 4:08 PM


Today's unlikely heroes. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

"I've coached more college games than any of you," John Beilein said to the assembled media. "I've never seen anything like this."

Rarely has a game, and quite possibly a season, turned so dramatically in so little time.

Facing UCLA in a matchup of paramount importance to their NCAA tournament resumé, Michigan allowed the same problems that have plagued this team all year to appear at seemingly the worst time. Despite open looks, they couldn't buy a three, opening the game 4-for-19 from beyond the arc. UCLA's Aaron Holiday got whatever he wanted against Michigan's point guards; ditto Thomas Welsh going to work inside against M's centers.

The Bruins took a three-point lead into halftime, and the lead easily could've been larger if not for some sloppy play on their part. That luck didn't last. UCLA's margin ballooned to 15 when Holiday drilled a three right out of the first media timeout of the second half. Then Charles Matthews, who'd had a quiet first half and opened the second with a traveling violation, started cooking. Every possession went through him, and for good reason; by the next media timeout, Matthews had ten more points and a Kobe assist, almost singlehandedly cutting the defecit to seven.


Charles Matthews went off in the game's final 20 minutes. [Campredon]

Matthews would've been even more productive in that stretch, and throughout the game, if not for major struggled at the free-throw line that extended to the rest of the team. Michigan would finish 8-for-22 from the charity stripe; Matthews posted a brutal 2-for-10 mark. As such, he couldn't bring the team back on his own. A pair of unlikely players picked him up.

"Eli [Brooks] saved the game for us," said Matthews. "I was so glad he made those free throws. I was going to hear about that for weeks to come. They're tough, especially that little dude over there [Zavier Simpson], he's a bull. He just brings toughness that a lot of point guards can't match."

Simpson did more than bring toughness, though he did plenty of that, recording four steals and helping hound Holiday into five second-half turnovers. He also had his best offensive game in a Michigan uniform, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting with a pair of threes and a couple huge late layups, including an improbable scoop past Welsh to beat the shot clock.

"I call that the three o'clock," said Simpson. "Coach Beilein calls that the time layups, where he wants us to shoot 12 o'clock scoops, three o'clock, six o'clock, nine o'clock. Now I didn't know it was going glass, but I knew it was going in when I released it. It felt good."


Simpson scored 15 points and went 2-for-2 from downtown. [Campredon]

Seemingly all his shots were timely. After Moe Wagner shook off a slow start to add some critical buckets down the stretch, Simpson's "three o'clock" shot got the Wolverines within two, and with only 18 seconds left he pickpocketed Holiday and took it the other way for a layup, bringing M within a single point. G.G. Goloman split a pair of free throws, giving Michigan a chance to tie. When Eli Brooks got fouled on a strong baseline drive, the game came down to the last place Michigan wanted it to be: the free-throw line, where Brooks had gone 3-for-6 to start his freshman year.

"I don't think he's made two in a row all year long," said Beilein.

Brooks calmly sunk both free throws, the first he'd attempted all game. Beilein went back to Simpson for UCLA's final possession. That paid off in spades when he poked the ball away from Holiday, forcing an ugly final attempt by Prince Ali that was well off the mark.

Once Michigan had forced overtime, momentum carried them the rest of the way. Simpson opened the extra period with a three-pointer and Matthews took over from there, responding to a late-game challenge from Beilein, who didn't mince words late in the second half when missed free throws looked likely to cost the team the game.

"You've been the MVP for UCLA so far," Beilein told Matthews. "You've gotta be the MVP for us."

Matthews rose to the occasion, adding four more points in the final period to finish with 20, just behind Moe Wagner (23) for the team high on the afternoon. He also had one of Michigan's three steals in the extra session to ensure the team wouldn't have to sweat out the final seconds at the line.

"It's really a great testimony to our kids," Beilein said. "We did everything we could to play some inefficient basketball. When we really needed to suck it up and get some work done at the end, we got it done. I'm hoping it's a huge benchmark for our team as we go forward."

At the very least, it got Michigan a much-needed quality non-conference win, and they'll get a shot at another on Monday night at Texas. We may very well look back today's game—and the brutal Ohio State loss that preceded it—as a turning point akin to last year's Illinois debacle and its aftermath.

[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]


[Campredon]

Comments

J.

December 9th, 2017 at 4:11 PM ^

"You've been the MVP for UCLA so far," Beilein told Matthews. "You've gotta be the MVP for us."

Beilein getting saucy.  Holy cow!

BTW -- sorry, Z, there's no way in hell you knew that shot was going in.  But we're all damned happy it did.  :)

Go Blue!

TrueBlue2003

December 9th, 2017 at 11:48 PM ^

was excellent coming in as a defensive sub towards the end.  He also challenged the UCLA shot at the buzzer.

But for as bad as Duncan has been this season, and he was certainly awful for the first 30 min of this game, he actually played well defensively down the stretch to give us a chance. I didn't think we'd be able to get enough stops down the stretch with him in there, but we did well and he got a couple stops himself.  Credit to him for that.

Gulo Gulo Luscus

December 10th, 2017 at 12:09 PM ^

Agree. He had a few nice defensive possessions. I also get the feeling that once he sees a three pointer go down the flood gates might open. If hot and cold streaks are mostly randomness that revert to the mean, he should have some games this year where it's raining.

TrueBlue2003

December 10th, 2017 at 3:43 PM ^

out of five.  He saw two go in against IU, out of nine.  He saw one go in out of five against UNC. He's not going to keep shooting at 30%, and he's going to have a couple games in which he's on fire.  But he's probably not going to light the nets on fire (he hasn't done that in two years) for any long stretch.

Which means, he's still not worth playing nearly as many minutes as he's playing becuase we can't afford the down times when the offensive and defensive peaks are so few and far between.  Was just pointing out that we did, luckily, get one of those stretches in which he wasn't totally dominated on the defensive end at the end of the game yesterday.

cbutter

December 11th, 2017 at 1:04 PM ^

Before this became a mental thing (which I think that is what it has become) I think this started on the defensive end. While he is not a good defender, he uses so much energy on that end trying to keep up with guys that he is just simply not athletic enough to keep up with. I don't think anyone would question his effort on the defensive end, but when you have to use that much energy just to remain competitive as a defender, you lose some of that energy on the offensive end. Nothing is worse for a shooter than to lose his legs. I am in agreement with others on this post that the minutes need to be cut down and he should come off the bench. 

maineandblue

December 9th, 2017 at 4:17 PM ^

Seemed like most folks had given up on Zavier. Would have been nice to find one PG to stick with, but glad he had a breakout performance. Looks like we may have to go with the PG by committee a while longer and play whoever is hot. 

robpollard

December 9th, 2017 at 4:34 PM ^

I know he has issues,  particularly on offense,  as was pointed out in that analysis earlier in the week. But the eye test says he deserves more time over Simmons, who just doesn't seem like he knows what to do. 

This team can be a bit passive (or as some have said, soft), and Zavier's very active, aggressive D is needed.

TrueBlue2003

December 10th, 2017 at 3:44 PM ^

been fine, good in fact, the past couple of games.

The PG position was the most productive position by far in the OSU game.

If this ends up being like the 08-09 season in which Lee, Merritt and Grady were PG by committee with none of them playing half of our minutes, it won't be the end of the world.  Need Matthews to be the go-to creater that he was today though.

robpollard

December 9th, 2017 at 4:30 PM ^

Can't hit threes, and even struggles with free throws?

It's amazing we're even 8-3. I can't tell if that's promising (we can't shoot this poorly all season, can we? We've got too much talent,  right?) or worrisome (e.g., maybe Duncan continues to crater; maybe Matthews free throw shooting troubles continues).

robpollard

December 9th, 2017 at 4:48 PM ^

They shot 35.9%. I know not a huge difference, but it's there. In any case, we're usually at 38-40%.

I think the only worse team was the Manny Harris team, which was awful. But even they were decent at free throws.

It's just very worrisome. Maybe things will click for our youth, e.g., Poole, and that will help.

jmblue

December 9th, 2017 at 5:10 PM ^

3-point percentages by season:

2007-08: 31.2%

2008-09 : 33.4%

2009-10: 29.9%

2010-11: 35.2%

2011-12 : 35.0%

2012-13: 38.5%

2013-14: 40.2%

2014-15: 35.9%

2015-16: 38.0%

2016-17: 38.5%

2017-18: 34.7%

This is a bit lower than recent years, but if Robinson were shooting his normal 40+% we'd be just about on line with other recent seasons.  It's also possible that the young guys will get more comfortable in the offense as the year goes on, as we've seen in years past.

robpollard

December 9th, 2017 at 6:01 PM ^

I know what you're saying, that it is largely Duncan, but the two players who would get his shots, Poole and Livers, are also struggling (Poole is 0 for his last 6). Still, I would start Poole; at least he had the Indiana game. Duncan needs a major change of pace.

And my point was both below Michigan average threes and FT shooting. Being below where we need to be with both is a tough situation for a team who wants to make the tourney.

 

 

 

TrueBlue2003

December 10th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

this mediocre unless Matthews can consistently be a driving threat like he was in the second half today, kicking to Wagner off the pick and roll, or corner gunners (or Z at the top of the key like he did for Z's second triple).

When he's not being aggressive (and not too aggressive as to get charges called) like the second half today, we have no one to create open shots.

People overestimate Duncan's shooting ability because of his absurd 55% start to his career at Michigan which was partially luck, pertially no one knowing who we was yet, and partially Caris getting him lots of open looks.  After his first 105 3s, he's only been a 38% 3pt shooter (on the 318 since).  That's not bad but not at all good enough to make up for his defense.

He was only 35% in the big ten season after Caris went down that year. He got it up over 40% last year but that was as a sub, frequently against other teams second units.

He's not going to continue to be this bad, but I'm not sure how much better he can be against starter quality players that have scouted him at all.

bronxblue

December 9th, 2017 at 5:58 PM ^

You look at close losses against LSU and OSU and if Robinson shoots around his career mark of 43% and those are probably both wins. This feels like a shooting slump, and it may be because he's working hard on defense and it's tiring him out, but I have to imagine he won't keep shooting around 30% on threes for the rest of the year.

Rumsey

December 10th, 2017 at 8:26 AM ^

Really hope Robinson can figure it out for the sake of this team. I remember when he first transferred in he broke all of Stauskas's practice shooting records then was on fire his first few games from deep. 

The two best years on this chart are balloned by Stauska's 44%! 3P% 2012-2014. Robinson has the pure shooting ability to replicate that number, just has to figure out how to do it in a game. Perhaps coming off the bench for a few games would get him going again.

outsidethebox

December 9th, 2017 at 5:10 PM ^

I don't have a problem with shooting open threes. However, that offense is very poorly designed in a variety of ways. First, so many threes are taken when there are no rebounders in  position to contend. Secondly, having played point guard, please do not come and set screens for me! Stay out of my space! Give me room and I will beat my man off the dribble and create much better opportunities than those silly screens.