Michigan Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota — Wrap-up
Michigan Squeaks One Out
The barn in Minnesota usually provides a nice atmosphere and a fun game to watch. This happened last night as Michigan held on for a 63-60 win to secure an always-appreciated road win to start the Big Ten season. It was surprising to the author that the score barely made the 60’s, the prediction was no score in the 50’s, but a score in the 70’s was the expected result.Even with almost constant defensive breakdowns by Michigan the entire game, and plenty of almost equally harmful breakdowns by Minnesota, the score remained low. Revisiting the above thought: it really is amazing Michigan held the Gophers to 60 points with the breakdowns on the high screen, the help breakdown on the next pass, and for the most part letting a guard go straight down the middle off a simple screen with little resistance.
Michigan finally found a team where Horford could have some effect. As is always stated here, Jon plays hard and makes every effort to create positives. Last night he missed a critical free throw and clunked a lay-up badly, but his contributions helped somewhat to erase the nice lead Minnesota had built. Jon had 14 points and 9 rebounds.
Numbers do not always tell the story, but without Jon involved on offense last night, Michigan probably loses. The Minnesota defense defended the perimeter pretty well, therefore the inside game became an option. Michigan actually had easy entry passes and Horford slowly made his way close enough to the hoop for some high percentage shots that he hit. There will be better middle defenders the Wolverines face in the conference, but when any opportunity arises inside, it must be seized.Caris LeVert continues to learn that wild shots and drives to the hoop against 7-footers may not be the optimum game plan. All the wings are small to defend inside, but little effort and defensive skill are apparent. Defense involves basic fundamentals, attitude, and work. Defense seems to be a necessary evil for some Wolverines to go through to allow a transition back to offense.
Walton appears to be feeling the pressure a little, showing some confusion, and perhaps thinking a little too much instead of just going on to business. The belief here remains that Walton is a very good player and time will heal his faults. One thing for certain, he can get up in the air and rebound underneath, much as Trey Burke did. He was on the floor at the end of the game, as Spike never seemed to get it going.Stauskas is not quite good enough to carry a team single-handed, but he is good enough to hold the torch when it counts. Nik turned down a few bad shots to continue the offense. At the end he once again was there to make the critical free throw. Like anyone else, he will miss now and then, but a team has to like the odds with Nik at the line in the last minute of a game.
The Wolverines ran some good half-court sets, but still look more confortable playing on the fly. Minnesota took that option away very well. Michigan was badly rebounded by a team that will not top the league in rebounding. Playing Morgan and Horford at the same time may help rebounding, but the effect on the running game and perimeter shooting may far outweigh any benefits.
Michigan worked hard to secure a 6-point lead late in the game and then proceeded to miss three of four foul shots. Walton needs to start hitting end game foul shots, that is what a point guard has to do, or else the coaching staff needs to create inbounds plays to get the ball to another option, as has happened with Stauskas.
The Wolverines then do not cover a shot on a defensive break down that resulted in a wide open horse shot when Stauskas was a full two seconds late guarding the shooter. How in the world is Michigan guarding inside and not the perimeter when Minnesota pretty much had to shoot a three-pointer? Invite the ball inside for a lay-up, and then get the ball in quick, assuming no time outs are left, pretty simple.How bad Robinson III is hurt remains to be seen. Right now Irvin is not the inside player Robinson is: he probably will never be that type of player. But last night, he slammed in some big shots. That is the job of shooters like Irvin and Stauskas.
The schedule is favorable the first few conference games, then look out, things get a lot tougher. The defense has no choice but to improve if Michigan is to play with the top tier league teams. It will be interesting to see if Michigan practices and gets the most out of Horford’s inside play. Somewhere along the way, stops will need to be made and the inside guys will need to make being inside more uncomfortable, instead of standing in the lane like a tall hat rack and watching lay-ups and dunks. Still, only so many fouls can be given, as Michigan no longer has the luxury of three centers.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
Go Blue — Wear Maize!