Thursday, December 29, 2011

Michigan-Penn State: Search and Destroy

Michigan 71, Penn State 53

The theme of Tim's night from the field

After a ho-hum non-conference slate that saw Michigan make people intermittently excited and worried about the rest of the season, the conference schedule began tonight against a struggling Penn State squad in the friendly confines of Crisler Arena the Crisler Center. Penn State after making the tournament last season, figures to be one of the worst teams in the conference this year. Tim Frazier is a very nice player (17.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 7.2 apg), and has done a very nice job replacing Talor Battle's outgoing production; unfortunately, other departures--such as Jeff Brooks and his 13 ppg--have not been replaced as adequately. As such, if this was an MGoBlog football preview, this game would be at least an 8 on the "need to win" scale. A loss at home to what seems to be the worst team in the conference would have been nothing short of disastrous. In his non-conference rundown of all B1G squads, Dylan at UMHoops summarized PSU in a manner that reminds me of 2007-08 Michigan basketball: 

Penn State’s offense, centered around Tim Frazier, is the worst in the league and its average defense isn’t enough to save it.
Thankfully, the Wolverines took care of business in front of what I imagined to be a depleted home crowd (at least the student section, which seemed full but only approximately 10% MAIZED OUT). Missing Michigan-Penn State to go home and see their families? I guess some students just don't get it. 

In any case, it was as smashing a victory as one could expect and the halftime entertainment was apparently a Quick Change performance. REAL GOOD TIME, indeed.

Michigan came out in the first half and shot threes early and often with very little success. Luckily for the Wolverines, the Penn State offense was about as anemic as the Penn State football team's. Despite reading all the scouting reports and looking over the stats, there's always a little bit of doubt with respect to how bad a team may or may not be, and with Michigan sort of struggling against some who dat non-conference opponents, no one can be taken lightly. In this case, Penn State's reputation of being mostly "total garbage" was actually true. Other than Frazier, who isn't much of an outside shooter, the Nittany Lions couldn't do much but hope to GRIT their way to some garbage points via offensive rebounds. Sorry guys, but Zack Novak is on our side, and there's only room for one TRUE GRIT in this town.

Michigan went up by 14 (36-22) at the half and more things happened in the second...but nothing of note that can't be mentioned in the section below. You know that you're not doing so hot when you're down 20 with a few minutes to go and the commentators are talking about how hard you tried, even tossing in the word "grit" in that euphemistic verbiage salad. With that, Michigan goes to 11-2, with the next outing coming on New Year's Day against the Gophers. Unfortunately, I'll be on the road to NOLA so I won't be able to watch and thus won't able to write a post on it. So, to the notes. 

Players Notes, Also Known As "Trey Burke and Those Who Are Not Trey Burke":
  • Burke--Another rough night from the field, going 3/11 (and an abysmal 1/7 from 3), but he still notched a solid 13 on the back of a 7/7 showing from the charity stripe. Additionally, it's hard to complain when your freshman point guard puts up 7 assists to zero turnovers. Penn State isn't a squad of defensive ninjas like say, a Purdue is, but it's encouraging to see your point take care of the ball to that extent, even if it is against probably the worst team in the league. 
  • Hardaway--As the hockey guys say, HOLY JUMPIN'. Glad I picked Tim in UMHoops' Pick To Click challenge. The story if his game is told by his shooting splits (from 2 and 3): he shot an almost perfect 10/11 from 2 and 1/7 from 3. In any case, Tim continues to showcase new moves and ways of getting to the basket. Last game he executed a nice little euro step tonight he had a nice drive to his left and a spin back right for a bank from around 10-12 feet. He also had a Magic-esque running hook through the lane, which good luck stopping that shot B1G defenders. He was also superbly set up by Smotrcyz on a couple backdoors in the second half, but overall this was by far his best game of the season for the simple fact that he was the aggressive slasher/2-point finisher that we all know he can be. He dropped 26 in this one so imagine what he'll start to do once he finds his shot from beyond the arc. 
  • Novak--A run-of-the-mill gritfest for True Grit. Despite only 7 points, a 4:1 assist:turnover, 4 boards, a steal, and a block make for another Swiss Army knife of a stat line for Zack. He continued his with-the-ball improvements, posting up (!) a PSU defender, backing him down like MJ backing down John Starks or some other such scrub, and executing a flawless fadeaway jumper. Yes, I am talking about Zack Novak. Fadeaway jumper. Zack Novak. Not MJ. 
  • Smotrycz--Only 2/4 from three...keep that up and you'll find yourself in St. Saban's Memorial Dubious Injury Infirmary, son. But seriously, another solid game for The Smoshtrycz despite not filling it up a la the last few games. Two assists to Hardaway late in the second half were particularly impressive, but 3 TOs indicates that ball security will likely continue to be an issue. Had the ball in the open floor near mid-court in the first half and attempted a one-handed pass that resulted in a turnover...I'm sure he got an earful from Beilein after that one. Otherwise, did have a nice strong take (no, not the Jim Rome STRONG TAKE kind) from the 3-point line to draw a block call. He seems to be able to do that sort of thing. He can take the ball from the arc and go to the basket with success, but once he starts to dribble for an extended period of time, with his back to the basket in the post or elsewhere, things start to get dicey. 
  • Morgan--A pretty unsatisfying performance for Morgan, only scoring 2 points. He couldn't finish on a nice feed once, and awkwardly traveled around the basket another time. A little bit disappointing after a great second half against Bradley, but it's not a huge deal given the final score and productivity of other players. However, Michigan absolutely needs more from Morgan, and it probably starts with him attempting more than 4 field goals, but he does need to be a little stronger around the basket. I can live with him getting his shot blocked but there are times when he gets the ball and should at minimum draw a foul but doesn't. 
  • Douglass--Seven points on 2/6 shooting from 3; had an attempted dunk--still a hilarious concept despite it having already lost its novelty--that he couldn't finish but did send him to the line. 
  • Vogrich--Took a charge (again...the GRIT, it's spreading), also made two threes from pretty much Ypsilanti. With the way Smotrycz is shooting and Vogrich's ability to knock it in from NBA range, you've got to think that driving lanes will be there for Hardaway and Burke like running lanes were for the A-Train. Vogrich's shooting percentage still isn't good, obviously, but this would be a good time to start to turn it on. 

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