Michigan Basketball: Wolverines at Illinois — Wrap-Up — What To Think — Number One in Hoops
In a repeat of similar recent games, Michigan played some ugly basketball the first half and pulled away in the second half as an opponent went cold from long distance. This game paralleled recent events. The parallel of greatest importance was a double-digit win, 74-60, Michigan’s 19th of the year.
Michigan faced yet another team that had been cold as of late from the three-point area. And again the opponent shot over the going rate of success in the first half. The causes are simple: (1) fresh legs, and (2) less than stellar pressure on the perimeter by the Wolverines.
Michigan again gave up way too many offensive rebounds due to not finding the ball or not blocking out properly. Morgan going down early further hindered the situation.
Michigan again had several sloppy, soft, lazy passes that resulted in keeping Illinois in the game.
Michigan started off with some bad shot selections, but this improved greatly after a few minutes.
One problem that has been much better this year, weak hands, reared up after a welcomed absence. That contributed in part to a bad day for Michigan concerning giving up offensive rebounds.
Despite the injury to Morgan, and a less than stellar half, Michigan took a somewhat comfortable eight-point lead into halftime.
John Beilein is an offensive minded coach and John Groce is a defensive minded coach. The play of both teams confirmed that hypothesis. As ugly as the game looked, Michigan ran some beautiful options, especially in the second half. Illinois played physical, pushed Burke and others backward, and put some nice pressure on the perimeter. As the game wore on, like in the past two weeks, the opponent’s pressure slowly vanished on defense and the shots did not fall on offense.
Another similarity is that Michigan again kept poise and just kept plugging on offense until the Wolverines got their way with Illinois. Illinois is somewhat offensively challenged on some days, and this was, fortunately for Michigan, one of those days. Last year’s Michigan team could easily have lost this game.The injury to Morgan wiped out the normal Michigan rotation, causing Beilein to rotate inside players with some skill but also due to fouls McGary picked up. McGary did not have his smartest game, the fouls he picked up put Michigan in a little peril. But between McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt, enough was secured from the inside game to make Illinois pay attention. While this trio made mistakes, the effort was high level.
Burke gradually took over as the game progressed. Viewers of the game saw the difference between a true point guard, Burke, and a true shooting guard, Paul. Paul hit some early threes and hit a few shots in the second half, but there was no mistake who controlled the game.
There have been some ugly games in the Big Ten this week. The style of officiating is contributing to the brutal and low scoring games. As ugly as this game was at times, it was still one of the best aesthetically.
Beilein made two key points in his postgame television interview. First, that being number one would be nice for the fans, but nobody would remember who was number one at the end of January. Second, he is expecting, insisting, that Michigan will improve and be at its best at season’s end. The first premise is a given and the second will be determined.
One thing for sure, Coach Beilein has patience. Michigan continues to make the same defensive mistakes, and things better improve or this team may finish fourth in the league. If things do improve, a championship is a real possibility. Right now, the other contenders are playing better defense. The announcers were kind the second half mentioning that at times Michigan, when they wanted to, could play good defense. The more likely scenario is that Illinois could not make enough shots.There is also no excuse for the lazy passes that occur because the offense stood around and not enough movement to the ball occurred when a player was pressured.
But things could be a lot worse than 19-1. But also keep in mind the next two weeks are not going to be a picnic in the park.
Shout outs to Hardaway Junior for some tough rebounds, to the trio of inside guys, and to Burke, who made a shot every time Illinois was on the verge of getting back in the game.
Semi-ugly may be beautiful in the Big Ten this year, although when the big boys have played each other the ugliness has diminished.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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