Thursday, February 2, 2012

Michigan-Indiana: Especially In Michigan

Michigan 68, Indiana 56

Tom Crean, unhappy with the state of affairs 
(yes, wrong game I's a pretty standard Crean face) 

In Bacari Alexander's pre-game motivational tactic, he dubbed it "hammer time."* Early on in the game, it was exactly that. Michigan came into this one needing to continue to hold serve at home; with Denard Robinson in attendance, the outcome was never in doubt, but for the sake of keeping appearances, the game was played anyway. It was essentially the basketball version of the 2006 WVU-UGA Sugar Bowl, with Michigan jumping out to an early lead and then spending the rest of the game just kind of holding on. Michigan ambushed the Hoosiers, jumping out to a 13-0 lead, the type of early success that Lloyd Carr was wont to sit on for the rest of a game. Unfortunately, this is basketball, and you can't really do that (Lloyd would've been the worst basketball coach ever). Trey dropping 10 quick points in the early going was a good sign, and Michigan found themselves up 27-8. I thought that there was a possibility that this game could turn into a mini-blowout (i.e. the Wisconsin game) but I had a hard time convincing myself of it given IU's 3-point shooting and Zeller vs. our front court. 

As the first half progressed, Michigan's torrid shooting pace tailed off. The 3s stopped falling and Trey didn't record a point for the rest of the first half after the early burst. On the back of Jordan Hulls, the Hoosiers battled their way back, cutting the lead to a manageable 11-point deficit by the half. The BTN gave us an inside look to Michigan's coaches meeting, and Beilein made sure to let the players know that they should understand that the 11-point lead was pretty good, and that they shouldn't look at it as a disappointment after being up by as much as 19. It was a pretty simple point, but with a still significant amount of youth on the team, it was one that had to be made. 

IU continued to harass Burke by throwing Oladipo and even the much bigger Watford on him, which extended his scoring drought and allowed the Hoosiers to sneak back in, as Hulls seemed to be incapable of missing. The Hoosiers cut the lead down to 4 with about 7 minutes ago, and what was once a seemingly insurmountable early deficit had been destroyed like it was a late-game prevent defense. The Hoosiers cut the deficit to 2, right before the two biggest shots of the game were hit by THJ and Stu. Tim had another tough day from 3, but he calmly hit his second trey to make it 55-50. After Elston missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Morgan pulled down an offensive rebound that was, in my mind, the biggest play of the game. The third biggest had to be the Stu 3 that followed JMo's board, but an underrated aspect of that play is the fact that THJ could have taken the 3 himself but dished it to Stu instead, who had a better shot. It's a play that probably won't be remembered, but if THJ takes it and misses then it's still a two possession game. Who knows what happens after that. 

There's a lot of good to take from this game (other than it being a good home victory against a ranked team): 
  • Watford and Zeller combined for 43 points in Bloomington; they only managed 19 between them last night. Hulls had 18 but he made some pretty tough shots to get there. You can live with that. 
  • Offensively, Michigan got to 68 via some pretty solid scoring across the board from the starting 5 (18, 13, 13, 9, and 8), and that's with: a) THJ having a rough shooting night yet again and b) the offense going into hibernation mode for about 10 minutes and Burke not scoring for about 30 minutes of play. 
  • Five turnovers compared to IU's 14=WIN. At the half, Michigan had 11 points off of turnovers, which I figured would have to happen for Michigan to stem the tide of IU's 3-point shooting (which ended up basically only coming from Hulls anyway). 
  • Shooting 41% from 3 like they did in this one will give Michigan a chance to win every game left on the schedule. 
  • Most importantly, Michigan was able to weather the storm of IU's comeback; they never trailed at any point. 
Now, onward to Mordor the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. 

*Side note, but I'd really love to know where Coach Alexander is getting all these ridiculous ideas from. The tape thing, to the "step up" thing, now this...there's no doubt that Bacari's motivational tactics ensure that Michigan's players are infinitely more CONSCIOUS than their opponents. 

Player Bullets, Also Known As "Trey Burke and Those Who Are Not Trey Burke": 
  • Burke--Despite limiting his scoring to essentially the first and last 5 minutes of the game, another good performance from Trey. A very efficient day, going 5/9 (2/2 from 3) for 18 points, while also chipping in 5 boards, 4 assists (to 2 turnovers), a steal, and one of his incredibly surprising but not really anymore" blocks. He struggled to generate much of anything when Watford or Oladipo were on him, and this is where you write something about how Morris's size is missed at the 1. Michigan has run some pick and roll with THJ in the past, so maybe that becomes a bigger part of the offense as teams realize that putting a bigger guy on Burke is the way to shut him down (and by extension, Michigan's offense). 
  • Hardaway--His stat line says 4/14 from the field (2/8 from 3), but I have by and large positive feelings about THJ's performance. As far as I can remember, only one of those 3s was a truly "bad" one...the rest just didn't go in. Everyone, including me, wants him to attack more, but the shots he took were there. As poor as THJ has been from outside, this last month or so of the season would be the perfect time to get it going. He still some defensive issues here and there--some of them seemingly effort/concentration related--but he did take a nice charge on Zeller. 
  • Novak--A very nice bounce back performance after an uncharacteristically poor performance in Columbus. Thirteen points on 3/5 shooting (all from 3) plus 5 boards, 2 assists, and a steal. I hope he's ready to bring the same kind of game to EL that he did last year
  • Douglass--The type of solid performance that we need from him. No adventures around the baseline this time around=zero turnovers. Good good. Only 1/4 from 3, but the 1 was the big three off of the assist from THJ that basically put the game away. The early layup is yet another reminder that he's surprisingly sneaky when it comes to getting to the basket. 
  • Morgan--Another player who had a solid day. He didn't quite match his numbers from the first game but 8 points on 3/5 shooting is not bad. He also didn't seem to be afraid of Zeller despite giving up a serious height advantage. An overall admirable performance; when JMo is playing well, he is secretly one of my favorite big men in Michigan history to watch.
  • Smotrycz--Not an enormous impact, but he did shoot 2/3. This is an entirely impressionistic observation, but he seemed a little more comfortable shooting the ball in his few opportunities. 
  • Vogrich--One of the slightly disappointing/under the radar aspects of the season is that Vogrich has not  been able to really put up very many shots at all. Okay, yes, he is shooting 23% from 3, but it's pretty difficult to get it going when you're only getting 1 or 2 looks a game. I get that he's a player with some limitations and that it's sort of late in the season to be adding things, but it would be nice to see some plays drawn up to get him free a few times a game a la Chicago Bull Kyle Korver. 
  • McLimans--I still wonder why McLimans gets so few minutes (4 in this one), but who knows. The 3 he made was about as perfect as it gets, and with Beilein's affinity for the Pittsnoggley types, I have to wonder why Big Bird doesn't get a little more time on the court.

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