[Ed-Ace: I'm taking time off this weekend but this diary stands in quite well for a game recap and gives me an excuse to post MG's photos.]
[This and all other photos: Marc-Gregor Campredon]
I don't like to wade into the open threads during or after a game, and since there isn't a recap posted, I wanted to make a couple notes about the game today. It seemed like some folks were disappointed with today's game so I'm going to channel Ace and try to dish out some perspective.
A John Beilein basketball team just shot a horrific 8-32 from three, an unfathomable 12-28 FTs, watched an opposing freshman who came into the game shooting an abysmal 39/19 toss in circus shot after circus shot despite being defended pretty well....and still won. Huh? How did that happen?
1) Rebounding. M continues to be an elite, you heard that correctly, elite defensive rebounding team (11th in the country). Minnesota only rebounded 13% of their misses (5 OREBs) to our 26% (11 OREBs) which gave us five more shot equivalents, every one of them was needed the way we shot.
2) Defense. I thought we played pretty good defense the whole game, but Mason started the game hitting his (typically) ill-advised pull-ups from 17 feet and then Washington took over and hit everything (almsot literally as he started 9-10) he threw towards the basket despite Z being right there making it difficult most of the time. I was like, great, thanks Brian. You had to go write the entire preview about their awful 2 point shooting, and of course, they make them against us (and for the record it was just Mason and Washington that shot well, everyone else was mediocre to bad).
Beilein made a very smart move to go zone (which I almost always hate and which usually goes poorly) right around the time we were down 10 with about 10 min to go.
Zone was a perfect way to slow down a team that was going one-on-one exclusively and weren't threating to pass or hit threes. They did get a couple dunks/shots at the rim off drive and dishes which will happen against a zone, but we took away what had been working for them: Washington driving the lane.
3) Points in the paint. Thanks to Z, Matthews and MAAR driving the lane, we scored 40 points in the paint. I don't even what's going on anymore.
Yes, this is not your older brother's M team that wins or loses by the three. We win with defense and rebounding sometimes too! Extremely nice to be able to do that on an off day (and this day was realllllly off despite those threes being mostly great looks).
- Z got the appreciation thread and he was outstanding down the stretch with a couple layups and a pretty steal and pass ahead to Duncan on the break during the comeback. Then he took over in OT with two layups and a three. Despite shooting an awful 1-8 from three (and they were ugly like his freshman year) he was 6-6 (!!) from two (we won't talk about the 0-2 FTs).
- Charles Matthews deserves a lot of credit for having a good second half after a brutal first half in which he went 0-6 FGs. He went 4-5 in the second half and had all 13 of his points after the break.
- Mo Wagner had one of his steadier games as a Wolverine. He wasn't spectacular like he can be occasionally and he wasn't victimized down low like he also can be. He continues to be the anchor of our elite defensive rebounding, his only TO was a three second violation and his double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) was big.
- MAAR: Oh yeah, the guy that had 17 pts including the game winner which was reminiscent of the Maryland game except this time instead of getting tripped he spun to the bucket for the and1.
- The 4 combo. Livers was once again very solid while in the game with his usual uber-efficient shooting (5 pts on 3 shots), rebounding (2 OREBs, 3 DREBs in just 17 min) and defense (2 blocks). But Duncan played 28 min in this one because in a zone, we can hide him on the wing and don't have to worry nearly as much about him getting beat because there's a guy waiting in the middle of the zone. He was also efficient with 10 pts on 6 shots and 2 assists to 1 TO.
This is probably the time to point out that 1 TO of Robinson's was a travel to give Minn the ball back with M up 3 with 8 seconds to go after being intentionally fouled multiple times. This was the worst call/no-call of the season in a season filled with them. The ref was standing five feet away from this happening and despite knowing Minnesota was trying to foul, and despite them doing a good job of it, he did not call it. If we had lost, this call would have been the story of the game. Refs had to be relieved that we won.
Minnesota, of course, hit a three to tie it on a play on which we probably missed a switch, very similar to the Maryland three to take the lead. Luckily we were up three this time so it just meant OT, but that makes it all the more inexcusable to give up an open three when you should be a lot less concerned about giving up a two.
Perspective: we won a game in which we shot terribly, and in this one, it wasn't opponent induced, we were getting shots we wanted. It happens. That we got the W because of our defense and rebounding is very encouraging for the future when we'll almost always shoot better than this. There's been some grumbling about the team since the MSU game, but remember:
1) M covered the spread in each of our last three games: Rutgers, Purdue and Northwestern. Not sure if we fans just aren't used to winning with great defense and meh offense and that's what makes it seem like we aren't playing well, but despite expectations being high for us right now (on the form of point spreads), we still exceeded those expectations in our three previous games.
2) In our six games since MSU, we have been the 42nd best team in the country per Bart Torvik's rankings. So we've still played like a top 50 team despite clunkers at Nebraska and today's...whatever that was. To put that in perspective, teams that have played worse during that time: Kentucky, Rhode Island, Creighton, Clemson, Wich St. Gonzaga....those are all teams projected to be higher seeded than M. That's pretty good for this being a so-called "bad" stretch.
[Hit THE JUMP for more photos and the box score.]