Thursday, January 12, 2012

Michigan-Northwestern: Denard Robinson Carries Michigan Basketball To Victory, Cures Cancer, Convinces NBC Execs To Cancel "Whitney"

Michigan 66, Northwestern 64 (OT)

First, just to get it out of the way...boy was I off on my prediction. I guess by some sort of eyeball test reckoning I saw how much Ohio State beat them by and figured "hey shave about a third off of that and that's us." I was wrong, so so wrong. I didn't put much stock in the "let down" theory because I figured that Beilein--a guy who jokingly asks reporters if they're drunk when they bring up Final Four hype--wouldn't let them underestimate any opponent, and I'm positive he didn't. Michigan's ills in this one are specific things you can point to, so we can dispense with the sports talk radio-isms.

Michigan opened the game getting good look after good look, many around the basket, and not hitting any of them. They started 0/8 from the field, Novak picked up 2 fouls 3 minutes in and was sent to the bench per the Coaches Rulebook, which states that 2 early fouls=bench for the rest of the half no matter what.

This has nothing to do with the game, but they played "Pour Some Sugar On Me" as the football team took the court halfway through the half during a timeout. Additionally, Limp Bizkit was played near the end of the game to get the crowd PUMPED UP for the final defensive possession. Limp. Bizkit. Come on.

Another thing I was sort of wrong about: the importance of defending the 3. Well, sort of wrong. Northwestern shot 46% from 3, but they only attempted 13. Northwestern was able to hit some early, and that just opened the floodgates for the back cut-palooza that was most of the rest of the game. Time after time, Michigan defenders were caught napping, and the Wildcats capitalized with easy buckets. As expected, both Shurna and Crawford got theirs, scoring 12 and 11 respectively in the first half alone. Quite frankly, Michigan was pretty lucky that NU bungled some open attempts around the basket, as well as that one breakaway attempt where the ball just sort of stuck to that guy's hip. At the halfway point, NU was shooting 60%. Michigan? A dreadful 28%. Michigan was incredibly lucky to only be down 7 after that half, in which seemingly only THJ came to play.

Thankfully for Michigan, Denard Robinson was in the house, dancing and smiling and sprinkling good cheer and hope here and there and everywhere, and maybe some of Bugs Bunny's "Special Stuff" in Jordan Morgan's water bottle. Morgan came out and scored a couple baskets to show that he was alive and stuff, but Shurna kept Shurna-ing around despite looking like a guy who desperately needed to go work on his Senior Design project. Michigan bumbled around for the first 6 or 7 minutes, but Denard kept dancing and smiling and willing the Wolverines to play less horribly, and slowly but surely they did. Then it happened. THE DUNKENING. Zack Novak said bastante and then rained down the grittiest thunder dunk you've ever seen. It was 46-44, Michigan's first lead since the early stages.

A huge THJ 3-ball tied it up 54-54 with 2:44 left, and neither team scored the rest of the way, which included Michigan summoning up one more stop to force overtime. Although the refs saw fit to not punish Dave "Arm Bar" Soboleswki (somewhere, William Gholston saw that and was like "Yup, that's how it's done") despite having the video evidence to do so. It could have changed the game with a 2 FT+the ball penalty, but Sobocop only made 1--ball don't lie--and they came away empty on the gifted possession. An exchange of two straight possessions where Northwestern could simply not clean up the defensive glass led to two straight trips to the FT line for Burke. THJ almost derped it away at the end, committing the sin that gives basketball coaches everywhere the spins: fouling a 3-point shooter with 0.3 seconds left. Fortunately, this did not end up hurting us.

To say this was ugly and a little bit disappointing would be an understatement...we simply cannot depend on Denard Robinson to bail us out every game.

As I've said before, I'm more concerned about the individual play of certain folks rather than what the end result looks like or "means." We won, that's what it means, overcoming horrible shooting and often questionable officiating in doing so, but certain players absolutely need to step it up or Michigan will continue to have a hard time throughout the rest of the conference schedule.

Player Bullets, Also Known As "Trey Burke And Those Who Are Not Trey Burke":
  • Burke--Did not have the type of game that I figured he would in the preview, which turned out to be the worst predictive attempt of all time. Nineteen points is nice, but he continues to shoot very poorly (5/17 overall, 1/6 from 3). Did make some clutch free throws at the end though, and 7 boards and a 7:1 assist: TO ain't nothin' to scoff at. If he can find his shot then seriously look out. 
  • Hardaway--Another person who had a very different sort of game the predicted. He came out on fire from beyond the arc, finishing 5/9 (7/13 from the field overall). I only distinctly remember one egregious 3 taken. I just wish he would SEARCH AND DESTROY more often; I feel like there is no game where his stat line should read "FTM-A: 0-0." Nineteen points and 6 rebounds with that percentage from 3 is a very good day, the final derp moment and no FTA notwithstanding. 
  • Smotrycz--The Smoshtrycz, what happened? You were so awesome for a while there and then the 3s stopped falling and all that was left was awkward dribbling and mediocre defense. Smotrycz has to bust through this wall and start producing if Michigan wants to beat anybody of consequence. His shooting percentages were bound to go down, obviously, but his looks today were almost all very good ones. 
  • Morgan--I hate to say this (I really, really do), but...Courtney Sims. There, I said it. How many more times will he be invisible for a half only to come out in the second half like somebody literally lit a fire underneath him? I like him as a player, but the effort needs to consistently be there. It's not even effort, really, it's...I don't know, toughness? Yes, he was often surrounded by multiple defenders when he had the ball near the hoop, but Morgan isn't exactly built like McLimans. GO UP STRONG. 
  • Novak--In addition to Zack's burgeoning AND1 career, you can probably find him in next year's NBA Slam Dunk contest. Not having him for most of the first half most definitely eliminated probably the lone galvanizing force that could've pushed Michigan out of that malaise. 
  • Douglass--Not a great day for Stu. He continues to be entirely ineffective from outside. Not only is he missing, he continues to take one or two truly bad threes a game. He was 0/6 from outside and a little careless with the ball, too. When you think about it, it's really a wonder that we managed to win this game with so many guys playing so horribly. 
  • Vogrich--Continues to be surprisingly gritty. A pair of steals and 1/3 from downtown, the make being one of his standard NBA range bombs. 
  • McLimans--Remember him getting beat on a back cut at least once, missed his one attempted 3. Only 2 minutes of play. 

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