Thursday, December 22, 2011

Michigan-Bradley: Onward and Upward

Michigan 77, Bradley 66

Michigan looked to finished out the non-conference schedule in as drama-free a manner as possible. They came away with the win and the game was actually fairly exciting, which, considering the opponent, is sort of the problem. The Wolverines took on a 5-6 Bradley team--Bradley, an entity doubling as a university as well as, potentially, an anonymous generic dude living down the hall from you in West Quad--in one last contest before the Big Ten schedule began. Michigan pulled away with about 8 minutes left in the game, but everything till that point was essentially an outline of the strengths and weaknesses of this time in one overt archetypic package. 

Michigan got killed on the boards as we trotted out positively Lilliputian lineups (even more so than usual). I think this team misses Horford in the interior I little more than we know. Additionally, the fact that most of Bradley's points were unassisted indicates a some lacking on-the-ball defense, which, given our general lack of athleticism, is understandable but not encouraging. At the same time, Bradley players were often reckless or out of control in their 1-on-1 game, so I guess it evens out. 

The first half didn't exactly go as planned. Michigan shot the ball well early on, but eventually cooled off, especially after Bradley went to the zone with 6 or so minutes left in the half. Michigan was quite simply dominated on the boards, giving Bradley a number of second chances that negated the Braves' pedestrian shooting percentages. As such, Bradley was able to keep pace despite not assisting for field goals nearly as much as the Wolverines, and a very deep three from Brown sent the two teams tied at the half, 33-33. Michigan was 12/34 from the field and 7/18 from 3, with very little inside game to speak of. Jordan Morgan had two points at the half. 

Thankfully, the Wolverines began to involve Morgan, leading to several high-percentage shots that started to blow the game open. Morgan's 13 second half points were essentially what allowed the Wolverines to leave the pesky Braves in the dust. A pair of dunks by Morgan and Hardaway (the latter on a nice lob from Stu) got the crowd going and put the game away. Michigan shot well from outside, but it seemed that Michigan's best option--as Beilein et al asserted during BTN's halftime peek into the Michigan locker room--was the fast break/pushing the ball. That's not to say that Michigan's half court game is Memphis-esque or anything, but with a guy like Burke running the show, not running is like putting Denard under center with regularity. 

Aside from the game, listening to Gus Johnson and the two live looks into the locker room were pretty great (if you were at the game or unable to watch, it's definitely worth watching for these two things alone). Watching Bacari Alexander motivate the team before the game by wrapping tape around them as part of a teamwork talking point was priceless. Also, hearing Beilein talk about actual basketball stuff and using actual basketball verbiage was interesting and I wish this sort of thing was shown more often. 

As for the Gus-isms...they were flowing indeed: 
  • "Shayok Shayok!" This was said maybe 50 times. 
  • The always classic "Ha haaaa!" after Shayok gets an "and 1" opportunity.
  • Lastly, this, upon Michigan going up by 15: "Wolverines poppin' their collars now!" GAME BLOUSES, BRADLEY. 

Player Notes, Also Known As "Trey Burke And Those Who Are Not Trey Burke": 

  • Burke--Trey struggled a bit from the field (5/13 overall, 1/7 from 3), but he still managed to score 12 and drop 8 assists to one turnover. Of course he is not him, but, as a Bulls fan, watching Burke accelerate down the court continues to remind me of Derrick Rose. The sequence in the first half--after Bradley had briefly taken the lead 26-25--comes to mind. Trey blocked a shot and accelerated to get the ball and take it the other way for a layup. It truly is a treat to watch. 
  • Hardaway--It was clear that Tim was trying to find his shot early, taking 3 threes and a 2 within the first 5 minutes or so. He, like Burke, also struggled from three, going 2/9. However, 16 points and an 5 assists to zero turnovers is a solid game, outside shooting notwithstanding. Nine threes is a few too many, but I'd rather he shoot than not. Showed a nice aggressive "euro move" in the first half. 
  • Smotrycz--Simply on fire from outside. The Smoshtrycz came into the game shooting a torrid 55% from 3-point land, and he only upped that percentage by going 5/7 in this one. He tied his career high of 20 points, and also broke the string of almost double-doubles by snatching 10 boards. He has to cool off eventually, but we can only hope that he can continue to shoot the lights out at this pace. 
  • Novak--A gritty 11 points for True Grit tonight. Also continues to drop dimes at a surprisingly high rate, with 4 more in this one (although 2 turnovers make the ratio not as sterling as the past 3 games). Again showed off his newfound handles with a nice take that saw him power through a defender into a jump stop and an 8-9 foot bank shot. 
  • Morgan--Two different players from the 1st half to the 2nd. After getting blocked twice on the opening possession, he was essentially invisible the rest of the first half. In the second, missed missed a few shots against the zone and then decided to get Morgan involved. He was aggressive, and although many of his points come as the result of being the benefactor of top notch point play (whether from Morris last year or Burke this year), the majority of his baskets in this game were the result of hard work. 
  • Douglass--A quiet game, yet somehow played 33 minutes. Only three points, but again, scoring is not a huge issue as long as he's playing defense and doing other things, like notching a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio.
  • Vogrich--Took a charge (the GRIT, it's spreading), 0/2 from the field. 
  • McLimans-Only three minutes...despite being insanely tall, got shot blocked once from what I remember. 
  • Brundidge--A few nondescript minutes halfway through the first half; drove for a mid-range shot that got blocked from behind. We're going to need a little more from somebody if Trey's going to keep playing 37+ minutes, but that somebody doesn't appear to be Brundidge right now.

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