Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) dunks over over Michigan State Spartans forward Matt Costello (10) in the first half at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Basketball: Michigan State at Michigan -- Wrap-Up

GBMWolverine Basketball TidbitsPosted at 8:00am — 2/24/2014

Michigan Basketball: Michigan State at Michigan — Wrap-Up

How Sweet It Is — Michigan Wins A Battle, Now The War

Hail, to the Victors, the mantra is fitting and true. Sunday’s victory by the Wolverines provides a one game, very tenuous lead for the Big Ten basketball regular season title. Still, tenuous or not, the ball is literally in Michigan’s court. Winning out will be tough, but that may be the only way to hold off the Spartans. Michigan does hold the tiebreaker acquired by beating the Spartans twice this season.

Feb 16, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo reacts to a play during the 2nd half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

There was much to like in this game, but the initial opening ten minutes demonstrated the all too often displayed weaknesses of the Michigan team. Right off the tip, Michigan is slow to get to the shooter giving up a wide-open shot. Michigan was slow getting to the perimeter a couple of times early on and Michigan State’s shooters hit the wide-open invites. Payne and Valentine were hurting Michigan. Michigan showed no real inside game, but did make use of cuts and screens to get the perimeter players some points in the paint.

Continuing with the semi-litany, in an effort to not create long paragraphs, the Spartan defense was playing well in the half-court setting. The result was impatience and ineffective offense as has been observed in the last few games. Dribbling replaced passing, and standing replaced moving as the players fired up rushed or desperate shots, some badly missing the rim.

Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines cheerleader performs during a time out in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The result was a high water mark for Michigan State, a lead of 22-11. After that Michigan’s play became better on offense and defense. The pressure of playing from behind in the last six minutes got to the Spartan offense until Michigan freely gave the obligatory lay-ups in the last minute and a half of play.

Michigan started playing much more aggressively and the rebounding was helped by Michigan’s weak side guys having very good inside position. Michigan State fell back into transition defense instead of crashing the boards.

One thing that helped the Michigan cause was taking care of the basketball. Even when playing from behind, and being in danger of getting into an early monster hole, Michigan committed only one turnover in the first half. Michigan State gave up six points in the first half on turnovers, enough to swing the game score into the close category. Caris LeVert again became the straw that stirred the drink by hitting a momentum-changing monster three-pointer at the very end of the first half. This time it was Michigan State who did not cover the transition game.

Then Michigan played with some grit and sell-out aggression on both ends of the floor, but more so the offensive end.

While the second half may not be accurately described as all Michigan, the Wolverines clearly played better and got stronger as the half progressed. Continuing with the passing, cuts and screens, Michigan put on a fine demonstration of offense. The tipping point was Nik Stauskas getting matched up in positions where he could get good looks or easy points at the rim. The passing and moving got Stauskas, Robinson, and LeVert not only involved, but also provided the overall balance Michigan displays when playing well.

Out on top, Walton and Albrecht hung in and while not stopping the opponent’s outside game, the two hung in enough not to be a liability. Harris is a really fine player, one who can go inside as will be demonstrated again at the next level. Appling is clearly still playing hurt.

Inside, maybe the best descriptive phrase is that Michigan survived in the foxhole. Adreian Payne had twelve points, a victory for Michigan’s big guys. Payne helped the Wolverine cause greatly with missed foul shots that provided a big part of the final game cushion. Payne is a big time player, and he is probably not the pure low-post guy that many NBA guys like. But his versatility is excellent and he may end up being a very nice NBA power forward. Matt Costello committed fouls and became ineffective. Denzel Valentine hurt Michigan, the reason being there was no Michigan answer for this match-up. Horford and Morgan had more fouls than points, but as the preview mentioned, how and when Michigan used the fouls to keep Payne from dominating may become a factor, and this indeed came to pass.

Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Caris LeVert (23) celebrates his three point shot in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena. Michigan 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan was out-rebounded, but the margin was not a major factor in the game outcome. After hitting 17 three-point baskets against Purdue, Michigan State shot a very respectable 39% against Michigan, hitting nine shots. The Wolverines answered with eight three-pointers and a slightly higher make percentage. Michigan did not burn up the foul stripe, but scored eight more free throws than the Spartans. LeVert frequently shoots off balance and Robinson the III is no better than an average free throw shooter. Stauskas appears to over-think some of his first shot opportunities, tightening up for misses.

Looking back, three turnovers against a good defensive team like Michigan State is pretty amazing. This was the game key. The first turnover was on a shot clock violation, where it appeared the Wolverines forgot only five seconds remained on the clock. The last turnover should never have happened. With a minute and a half on the clock, Michigan took a Spartan turnover and forced a pass up the court that got intercepted. There was no need for the pass, simply get the ball past the line and milk the clock.

Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Glenn Robinson III (1) dunks in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena. Michigan 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, this win must be very satisfying for the coaching staff. The preparation and options used within the offense yielded a better brand of efficiency, once the static dribbling ceased. The team could not neutralize Michigan State’s size advantage, but held firm enough to give the offense a chance to win the game. And that sports fans is exactly what happened.

What this means is obvious: Michigan has sole possession and a one game lead on the Spartans, but not too giddy be you all yet, there is still plenty of games to go. Iowa fell to the hottest team in the league, Wisconsin. There is not much time for Iowa, Wisconsin, and the almost out of it Ohio State to catch either the Wolverines or Spartans, but it could happen, certainly stranger things have transpired.

Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein celebrates a three point shot by guard Caris LeVert (23) in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Crisler Arena. Michigan 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan is finished with Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State. Michigan State plays Iowa and Ohio State, the Ohio State game is on the road and the nuts are getting better week by week. Iowa plays at Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State. Wisconsin, at least in theory, has the easiest schedule remaining, with Indiana being the primary obstacle. Remember, the mixed schedule clearly favored Wisconsin.

Michigan has Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana. Regardless of the record, Indiana will come to town in a foul mood and play the tough defense that stymied Michigan the first time around. Within the next ten days, the end game will start to play out.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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