Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Michigan-N.C. State: Showtime

"WE ON!"

#3 Michigan 79 (6-0), #18 N.C. State 72 (4-2)

The Wolverines took the Crisler Center floor in the big game maize jerseys for an intriguing early season contest against N.C. State for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Play early on was a bit sloppy, with each team committing a pair of turnovers within the first three minutes of play. 

The Wolfpack jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, but Nik Stauskas executed a masterful move to the basket, going behind the back and flying through the lane to lay it up on the left side while going right. 

On consecutive possession, THJ found the soft spot in the middle of the zone and calmly knocked in a free throw line extended jumper, and then, off of a block, Burke found THJ in the corner in transition. Again, THJ hit with a nonchalance that belied his 2011-12 shooting woes. 

At the 13:30 mark, the Wolverines were up 14-10, with THJ having already racked up nine points on 4-6 shooting. Shortly after, Nik Stauskas knocked in a trey, again with the 'Pack in the zone. Naturally, they went man on their next possession, where Michigan picked up an offensive board after a missed THJ three but eventually turned it over, again leading to a breakaway dunk for NCSU. 

With 23 points halfway through the first half, Michigan was well on its way to a prolific night on the offensive end against a shaky 'Pack defense. The zone was very clearly not working for them early on, as Dakich's constant admonitions of "you can't zone a Beilen team" echoed. Even worse for the 'Pack, C.J. Leslie picked up a pair of fouls, forcing him to sit at the nine minute mark. 

A beautiful pick and roll between Burke and McGary led to a McGary thunderdunk and a Gottfried timeout. Out of the timeout, Michigan went to the super secret weapon that is the 1-3-1; after knocking it out of bounds, however, they reverted to man after the inbounds. 

Yet another Stauskas trey put Michigan up 30-16. Mercifully, a tv timeout allowed N.C. State to gather itself again. Michigan racked up a 14-point lead with 7:54 to go in the half; with Trey Burke shooting 0-1 from the field and scoring zero points. It is a brave new world, indeed. 

With Eso Akunne taking a couple questionable shots, the 'Pack rattled off a 7-0 run, sticking with the zone on D, as Michigan started to cool off a bit from its previously torrid shooting pace. Luckily for Michigan, Howell had to go to the bench after picking up two quick ones, an unfortunate series of events for Gottfried, as Howell had basically single-handedly brought the 'Pack back during the aforementioned run. 

The 'Pack brought it down to five, but another Stauskas three stemmed the tide. I have to echo Rod Beard here: might need to just CTL+V that sentence for the next four years. 

A lapse in transition D brought Michigan's once sizable lead back to 5, at 41-36. The 'Pack continued to zone away out of necessity (foul trouble), and Michigan started to settle for low-percentage outside shots after eviscerating the middle of the zone earlier in the half.With the final offensive set of the half, Michigan pick and rolled up top and Burke penetrated all the way to the basket before a slick wrap around pass to GRIII for a layup. Michigan entered the intermission up 43-36, a solid performance but slightly unsatisfying after the aforementioned State foul trouble and a once 14-point lead.

Halftime Stats
Team PPP (points per possession): 1.33
  • Stauskas: 4-5 (3-4 from 3), 13 points
  • THJ: 5-10, 11 points, 1 block
  • Burke: 0-2, 0 points (!), 9 assists (!)
N.C. State
Team PPP: 1.16
  • Warren: 3-4, 8 points
  • Howell: 4-4, 8 points
  • Wood: 2-4 from 3, 8 points

Michigan had some issues on the defensive glass and with its interior D early in the half, allowing the 'Pack to hang around. On the bright side, Burke recorded his first points of the game three minutes into the second half with a trey from the top of the key. He then attacked the basket and split a pair of free throws, and stole the ball from an NCSU guard for a rare dunk going the other way. 

Just like that, Michigan was up 11 after a missed dunk put-back from GRIII yielded a pair of free throws. Even better, Howell picked up his fourth foul at the 14:51 mark. He had led NCSU in scoring to that point, tied with Leslie with 10 points. 

Again, Michigan went to work against the zone. Burke wasn't able to hit cutters in the middle, but a quick little screen from Horford up top freed Burke up adequately to take a dribble or two to his left and drain another 3-pointer. The lead was back to 13, and it seemed that NCSU's foul trouble and lack of depth was starting to really show. 

With 10 points and 10 assists (a career high, I believe), Burke already managed a double double with over 13 minutes left to go in the game. Tremendous, indeed. 

After watching my Bulls give up a 27-point 3rd quarter lead last night against Milwaukee, I was probably more leery than most about this game down the stretch. However, the Wolverines didn't take their foot off the gas, continuing to slice and dice the 'Pack from outside and in the paint.

Howell finally fouled out with six minutes to go, probably marking the end of the road for the Wolfpack, down 15 at this point. Not so fast, as a 6-0 run, capped by another breakaway dunk off of Michigan's first turnover of the half, brought the lead back down to nine with 4:24 to go. 

As much of a stroke of luck as Howell's fouling out seemed, Michigan didn't score again throughout the next 3+ minutes. Visions of last night's Bulls catastrophe crawled back to the forefront of my mind as the Wolverines tried to shut this thing down once and for all. 

T.J. Warren received an and-1 opportunity after a questionable charge call on THJ in transition. Michigan was up 73-68 now, with NCSU riding high after a 10-0 run. A strong THJ drive to his right for a score off the glass marked Michigan's first points in over five minutes of play. 

Luckily, Michigan got the benefit of some home cooking (to me at least, Dakich disagreed), when C.J. Leslie was called for an offensive foul in the post with NCSU looking to cut the lead to three for the first team since the first half. 

After the requisite foul-apalooza, Michigan emerged with a big 79-72 win after a treacherous stretch of four minutes or so late. This win doesn't quite erase the haunting memory of Saturday's game in Columbus, but it's a start.

NB: I think that I will do the individual player bullets in a separate post this season (if time permits), just to space things out a bit. That will probably go up the day after games. Also as time permits, I'll be getting these recap posts up shortly after the game.

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