Game 19: Michigan at Penn State Post Game

Dylan Burkhardt

Penn State played more physical basketball tonight and they were rewarded with the ‘W’. Jamelle Cornley imposed himself on the game and posted monster numbers, 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting and 11 boards, while dominating not only the glass but the whole painted area. Michigan had plenty of very good looks from long range in the first half but they just couldn’t hit any.

Michigan still managed to stay close in the first half thanks to some turnovers and poor three point shooting from Penn State. In the second half the Nittany Lions blew the game wide open. Penn State heated up from three point range and hit 7 of their 10 three pointer attempts en route to the easy win. The lead ballooned as high as 26 points and the outcome was never really in doubt. Beilein sums it up well:

“We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”

The defensive effort just wasn’t there all night for Michigan. Penn State scored at will inside throughout the first half and forced Michigan to collapse so far in on Cornley that three point shooters were left wide open. Penn State shot the ball very well (eFG% 67%) and also rebounded 37% of their misses. When you let a team shoot that well you definitely can’t let them pull down that many offensive boards as well. Penn State scored 1.19 points per possession and their 67% eFG% was the highest that Michigan has allowed all year.

We have known all along that this team is very limited in the sense that they have no size in the front court. The only way that Michigan has found to disguise their lack of size this season is with the three point shot. When it works it works, but when it doesn’t things get ugly. Michigan played some great offensive basketball throughout the non-conference season but their shooting touch has disappeared over the last several games. The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA).  At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot.

Sims was the only bright spot tonight for Michigan on offense. The junior big man put up a double-double with 21 points on 10-14 shooting and 11 boards. DeShawn was the only one on the team that could score the ball today but he was still out played by the 6-foot-5 Jamelle Cornley. The rest of the team combined to shoot 12 of 42 (28%) from the field and no one else reached double digits.

This team is free falling right now and it’s clear that something isn’t right. I don’t think they have looked quite the same since Wisconsin handled them in the Big Ten opener. Maybe even before that, the FGCU and North Carolina Central games left a sour taste in my mouth headed into Big Ten play.  Laval Lucas-Perry’s stellar debut against Oakland looks like fools gold in hindsight because there are clearly some adjustment issues going on. Laval is 2 for his last 17 three point attempts after starting his season by making 16 of his first 35. I have no doubt that Laval is going to be a very good player throughout his career but right now he is going through the type of growing pains that freshmen go through.

Michigan is also dealing with more quality big men at the same time that they are trying to move an undersized guy to the power forward position. The issue here is that Beilein just doesn’t have the pieces to fix this problem. There are two guys that can play center on this roster: DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson. There are three others who can play power forward: Jevohn Shepherd, Zack Novak, and Anthony Wright. Playing Gibson and Sims together sounds nice but if you do that too much there is no one to back up Sims at the center position.

It isn’t like Beilein is leaving Greg Monroe on the bench:

    • Jevohn Shepherd is a 6-foot-5 wing who isn’t much of an offensive threat and isn’t going to stop a guy like Jamelle Cornley or Marcus Landry.
    • Zack Gibson is a shooting guard trapped in a 6-foot-10 body; he is a finesse player and he’s not going to turn into a banger over night.
    • Anthony Wright is a 6-foot-6 forward who made a great backdoor pass against UCLA but has very little athleticism or hustle and is a career 27.4% three point shooter.
    • Zack Novak is 6-foot-4 but he gets to more loose balls than anyone on the team and despite struggling a bit of late is shooting 39.5% from long range.

    Pick your poison.

    Michigan needs to start figuring things out in a hurry. They have some extended practice time for the first time since before the Iowa game so hopefully they can get back in some kind of groove.  A win over Northwestern might help get this team energized but after that they have tough road games in Columbus and West Lafayette. This team needs something to turn their Big Ten season around in a hurry but I’m not quite sure what it will take. Let’s hear your theories, suggestions, and ideas in the comments.

    Player Bullets:

    • DeShawn Sims: Good (see above).
    • Stu Douglass: The only other notable performance, Stu was 3 of 8 shooting for 9 points with 3 assists and 2 steals. Stu seems to be finding his stroke again but he seems like a guy who needs 8 shots to have a good shooting day more than a guy who can come off the bench and knock a couple down.
    • Everyone else: Bad.

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    • Drew

      I applaud you for keeping some sort of sense of optimism through all this. I’m not quite sure how you do it. I find myself swearing profusely and wanting to hit every object in sight during this rough stretch. I’m just left wondering, when is it gonna go right?

    • Not trying to be overly optimistic… Trying to be rational I guess. This is basically the third game in a row that has felt like a punch in the gut. I just want to try to look at the facts more than jump to overreactions…

    • NVE

      This sums it up quite nicely-

      Everyone else: Bad.

      Tonight’s game exemplified my deepest preseason fears about this team. Terrible shooting, rebounding woes, no post defense, no easy buckets in transition. It was pretty miserable to watch.

      However, soon after the final buzzer I realized that this is also the worst game U-M played this year. There were 10 of these games last year.

      Plenty of reasons for optimism:

      1) There is still a decent shot at dancing – .500 in the Big Ten has to get you in. Getting to 9-9 in the Big Ten looks really tough right now, but it’s still doable. They need to get to 3 wins on the road and 6 at home. Here’s where they can come from:
      Home (2 down, 4 to go) – Northwestern, Penn St, Minnesota, Purdue
      Road (1 down, 2 to go) – Northwestern, Iowa

      There is a 4 game stretch in mid-late Feb they may need to sweep, but it lines up nicely – Sun @ NW on 4 days rest, Thurs vs. Minn on 3 days rest, Sun @ Iowa on 2 days rest (the toughest one to get), then Thursday vs, Purdue on 3 days rest. I mention the rest because everyone looked tired tonight.

      2) The team caught a lot of breaks in beating Duke and UCLA when both those teams shot terribly. Now, they’re catching the other side of those breaks and are going cold themselves. Eventually, it will swing back to some extent because there are tons of shooters on this team. Not only did they miss good looks today, so many of those misses looked good…as Coach would say, they back rimmed or rattled in and out. Esp. LLP. And once some 3s drop, everything else on D (setting the table for man or the 1-3-1) and O (transition baskets, driving lanes) will click again.

      3) There is a perfect get well game coming up on Sat night. 3 full days of practice/rest, and then there is motivation to beat a subpar N’Western team who won at Crisler last year. That gets us right back to .500 in conference.

      4) The future is still so bright. There are 3 big guys to add to the rotation next year. For the first time in a couple years, the best players on the team will all be upperclassmen and their experience will make a huge difference during stretches like this. There will be a practice facility in about 2 years!

      13-6, 3-4 in the Big Ten. It’s about where this team should be right now. Get a win on Saturday and they’re right back in the thick of things.

      Go Blue

    • Tom

      Remember those non-“must wins” last week….we are getting close to some must wins now.

      I have followed Beilein Ball for a looooong time. I am a former player of his and have seen his teams at Richmond and West Virginia and I cannot believe the number of threes these UM guys chuck. His system was not like that before UM. At West Virginia, they would get 4-5 backdoor layups a game, 6-7 fast break baskets a game, and shoot about 16 threes a game. When was the last back door cut for an easy two? This was really brutal to watch. I hope Morgan can play next year and Big Ben is right, because this will be the same team next year if those two are not ready to play. The other Frosh coming in are chuckers too…….

    • JimC

      Agreed it does seem that they’re relying too much on the 3s. I heard more about the cutting and “Princeton-like” office after the UCLA win, but very little of it since.

      Don’t want to seem pessimistic, but this is looking like one of those collapses from a few years ago.
      But NVE, I hope you’re right.

    • Avery Queen

      Here’s how I see it. We are undersized and don’t seem capable of stopping opponents on D with any consistency and certainly not for 40 minutes. We still manage to win when we shoot well but usually lose when we shoot just ok and always lose when we shoot really poorly. A good basketball team (e.g. MSU) always wins when they shoot real well, still manages to win when they shoot ok, and can often pull out the really ugly victory when they go cold. So how do they do it? Defense and rebounding.

    • Keith Davis

      I broke my remote last night. Yes, the same remote held together with duct tape that I broke three years ago during the Michigan-Ohio State football game.

      I honestly thought last night was a road game the Wolverines could steal. Unfortunately, it was the most uninspired 40 minutes I have ever seen from a Michigan team (and I stuck through the Ellerbe/Amaker days). Like others on here, I have a problem with the amount of threes they fire up. I have no problem shooting the three within the offense, off a drive and kick, or a guy coming off a couple of screens. I have a problem with the ones that appear to be frustration threes. Manny is capable of being the most explosive guard in the Big Ten, but whenever he drives and misses a shot or looks to have gotten fouled, but the whistle isn’t blown, you can almost bet that within the next two possessions, with a defender right there with him, he’s going to give a nonchalant jab step and then hoist a 24-footer. Stupid.

      I also thought Michigan looked better in the man-to-man last night, opposed to the 1-3-1. Stopping a marginal to decent post player in the paint? That’s obviously not going to happen. There was actually a moment last night (and I cursed myself for it) that I caught myself asking, “Where’s Peter Vignier when you need him?”

    • Manny definitely takes a couple stupid shots per game. But in the end, we had plenty of open shots “within the offense” and they just didn’t go down. Grady had a few wide open off the drive and kick that he missed badly.

    • Keith Davis

      I agree, it was definitely an off night. But, does there come a time (when you’re 2-20 3pt FG, perhaps) when you put your head down and try to attack the basket? For a 78% FT shooting team, they sure don’t take advantage of it. Of course, even last night they missed some free throws.

      LLP also had some wide open looks that didn’t go down.

      Forgive me for being so negative. I know teams–any team–can have a bad night. They need to bounce back Saturday.

    • AG

      I think this team is in a ton of trouble. The lack of size/skilled big men put us behind the 8-ball against almost any team in conference. Three-point shooting can equalize things, but if we continue to shoot like we have been then it will be an NIT season.

      Recruiting Question-
      I know we are at our limit for 2009 scholarships but I think Coach B needs to bring in as many big bodies as possible. Do we have any chance still at Angus Brandt? Could we release someone from scholarship and offer him? I’m thinking Ant Wright.

    • Benjamin

      Ant Wright still has two years, I would think that Zack Gibson is the most likely person to not be offered another year.

    • Keith Davis

      I disagree. Gibson is the only legit back-up to Sims. If Michigan can somehow pick up Brandt, then you’re expecting an unproven freshman to give you 6-10 quality minutes a game to give Sims a breather. Gibson doesn’t do anything spectacular, and at times plays soft for a guy his size, but he’s been through the battles of Big Ten play. I would feel much more comfortable knowing that Gibson is on the bench. Remember, without him in the first Illinois game, we’re quite possibly sitting at 2-5 in the Big Ten.

      Not to discredit Brandt, or even Jordan Morgan, but that seems to asking a lot out of freshmen post players. Maybe they’ll surprise me and become studs the first time they step on the Crisler court, but do you take that chance at the expense of Gibson? I wouldn’t

      Wright is a trigger-happy shooter that can’t shoot. He has yet to offer quality minutes. The only reason he saw action last night is because the game was already out of hand.

    • G-Mun

      I just stopped crying….

    • Kenny

      cannot win with this kind of 3-pointing shooting, which is the bread and butter of this team.

      I still believe that Gibson could still improve and Ant Wright probably has less upside.

    • JimC

      To Keith’s point, IMO absolutely this team should have the Option (not to over-rely on this either) of driving to the basket more, and then shooting or making the easy pass.

      Manny’s the only one doing this, even though he always shoots.
      LLP has the ability but seems timid now.
      Grady needs to learn how to do this more.
      Even Merritt and Lee could contribute to this.

      Keep Douglass and Novak out past the arc–those guys don’t have the speed to drive–and attack to the goal more.

    • Anders

      First of all I would like to express my appreciation for this Michigan Basketball website. There are no turnovers here, but there is plausible analysis.

      A long time Michgian basketball fan, I was hoping that the Wolverines would be respectable this year and they got off to a great start, but it looks like they have stepped onto the down elevator, and it has looked that way for several games.

      They were living on Manny penetrating and tossing back for the three, but Manny’s penetration has mostly been stopped. Defenses pick up the three point shooters earlier and prevent so many open threes. The 1-3-1 has been solved.

      I do not see how this team can go .500. Who are they going to beat on the road? Fortuately they only play MSU once and at home.

      Coach Beilein is doing, and has done a great job this year, but you can’t coach length, athletic ability, and depth.

      We’ll see if he can get them off the mat and reestore their swagger and confidence soon. I hope that he can (just don’t bet on it) and that they can manage something of note this year.

    • Dave

      after watching pretty much every game this season its clear that they have nobody other than manny on the occasion that can drive and get into the lane and make plays…….they have nobody that has a mid range game other than deshawn here and there and without these two things it doesnt matter what they have there, they are always going to struggle…..teams can easily defend them and when they struggle with 3s they are obviously going to lose every game….even next year you know they are going to have off nights shooting the 3, but they are going to need people to establish midrange games and get people who can get into the lane, and their defense obviously needs improvement. This might not be the beilein way, but sometimes you have to make adjustments and adapt. now these problems could be because they are young still but like somebody said, there have been no back door cuts and they are way to predictable on offense and the defense is a work in progress to say the least….nobody should be scared to play this team right now

    • Dave

      also how does a 6’5″ guy post deshawn up i dont care how strong he is that should not happen, he was 8/9 at one point…..thats just interesting

    • Frank

      I think you guys are right. This is more on the players than Beilein. They’ve essentially abandoned looking for a backdoor cut. They don’t even pass very much anymore, just look for the first 3 they can get. I don’t know if its because they’re facing a ton of slow, 2-3 zone defense teams in the Big Ten or because Novak is playing the 4 instead of Jevohn Shepard, but something has to change, because they’re playing like they did last year right now, and we all remember what happened at home vs. northwestern last year.

    • Drew

      I was doing a lot of Gibson bashing early in the year, but I do see some upside in him. He does have a fair amount of experience in Big Ten battles and I would love to see him start along side Sims, but that probably cant happen because of the fact we’d have ZERO height coming off the bench.

      I think Beilien has to make major adjustments and experiment with them during the Northwestern game. While they may not provide a true sample as far as opponents go, it’s worth a look. I think it’s time to end the Novak at the 4 experiment. Its over. It’s not working. One thing I was reminded of last night is that Shep really can get to the hoop. He showed it a couple times last night and during the Duke game. When were cold, we need a guy who can get to the rim and finish. Another thing is that he gets so little respect from the opposition, he is often matched up with a very subpar defender when he comes in the game. I think he could definitely contribute if given the chance.

      Lastly, and as much as I cussed and yelled at this individual early in the season when he was regularly building brick houses, I think Ant Wright really has the ability to give some quality minutes. God forbid, his slump has to be over by now, right? But I think he would be more useful as far as interior defense goes. He has a bigger build and could at least be a body to use down low on players like Cornley.

    • My issue with Ant Wright is that he has a big body but he just never uses it. He doesn’t bang, he isn’t good at boxing out, and he doesn’t shoot well.

    • Drew

      Very good points. I just remember him shooting semi-well last year and would assume that if he didn’t want to rot away on the bench for his entire career he might try to bang down low, box out, etc.

    • Cornley had 26 against MSU and they aren’t really a small team. I wasn’t impressed by Peedi’s defense but Cornley is no slouch…

    • Drew

      Out of frustration I started to lose focus on the game, but when we went man to man, was Peedi on Cornley? When we were getting hammered in the zone I thought DeShawn would be our best bet on stopping him.

    • Keith Davis

      In response to Frank’s post…

      “Novak is playing the 4 instead of Jevohn Shepard…”

      Novak is playing roughly 33.3 mpg in the conference. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jevohn take a few of those minutes because as we all saw last night, he can come off the bench and has the potential to ignite the team, but…Zack Novak is a warrior. How many times has he kept possessions alive just by getting a hand on the ball and/or out-hustling everyone else on the court? Sure, he’s undersized, but he has a toughman’s mentality that this team benefits from. And instead of just being a scrappy bruiser, he also has some offensive ability to go with it. He hasn’t been shooting very well lately, but he’s still #2 on this team in 3FG% (behind CJ Lee). Zack brings an intensity to the game that the rest of this team lacks. I don’t think playing Shep over Novak is the answer.

    • Giddings

      The biggest problem that I noticed defensively last night was that in both the man and the 1-3-1, Peedi would routinely leave his post down low and venture out to the elbow or free throw line to double team guards… which left Cornley and other PSU big men either wide open or matched up against our PG down low.

      Especially with Novak at the 4, Peedi needs to learn that he is our only hope for defending big post players. When he goes to double team, there are basically two possible results – either a turnover (in rare cases) or a layup/dunk for the opposition.

      I have also called for Novak-at-the-4 to end (obviously we still need him on the floor but he’s much more effective at the 2). Can anybody guess how many minutes Shep played in the Duke game? The answer is 32 (and he started).

    • Andy

      I agree that some lineup changes are in order to have a chance to get this right. As excited as we were about LLP, his addition to the team has correlated to when things started falling apart. Manny seems to have more trouble finding his spot and Shep has been completely eliminated from the rotation.

      I think it’s key to realize that the best 5 to be playing doesn’t necessarily equate to the best 5 individual players. You have to adjust to the fact that you’re playing in the Big Ten and make it work. I would say that at any point in time 2 of the 3 of Sims, Gibson, and Shep should be in the game. Obviously if Shep is in, he is the 4 and the other one is the 5. Shep can get to the hole and mix things up which is painfully necessary. Another advantage of having Shep in is that he is a good on the ball defender to give Manny a break. Let Manny play the 4 on defense and Shep guard the 3.

      Beyond that keep a rotation of Grady, LLP, Novak, Douglass, and Lee running through the other positions and I think we’d be in better shape.

    • Robert 04

      Defensively, I feel like Gibson should get a start to shot AND Eric Puls should get a shot to back up Peedi and/or Gibson. He can’t be softer than Gibson and can’t be much worse as an erratic three point shooter.

      Something also is wrong with LLP. I was solidly behind him starting no matter what but now I’m thinking maybe he should come off the bench as a spark to drive to the basket, taking the open three when there like the Oakland game. Maybe Stu does need to play more (read: get into a rythmn and game flow earlier/get more shots)

      I guess UM needs manny and deshawn to both score at least 15 a game as well as find a 10+ third scorer if LLP remains cold. This whole one of them goes off for 20+ doesn’t work.

    • Robert 04: Eric Puls is definitely not the answer, and yes he is softer than Gibson.

    • Dave

      i agree with andy when llp started playing the downfall did start……..gotta be a coincidence……or is it?

    • Keith Davis

      Even though we’re through 19 games, I still get the feeling that Beilein and his staff are still trying to find a rotation that works. Obviously, adding LLP threw a wrinkle into the mix, but they’ve known when he was going to become eligible.

      Manny only played 26 minutes last night, which is his fewest amount since a couple of blowout victories earlier in the season. Is it just me or did last night seem more like a flat-out benching and not just regular substituting? At one point, Sims, Harris, and LLP were all on the bench. Sims seemed to respond when he came back into the game. Harris and LLP, not so much.

    • Sid


      If you’d prefer to remain anonymous I understand, but I’d be curious to know who you played for and when. Kind of sounds like it wasn’t Richmond or WVU, leaving Canisius. Again, I don’t want to pry, but it would be cool to hear some more of your thoughts on “Beilein Ball.”

    • Tom,

      Beilein’s 04/05 team averaged 25 three point field goal attempts per game. This ranked 3rd in the country. Michigan is averaging 26.6 per game. Not much higher. 46.8 percent of this years teams shots are three pointers compared to 45.9 percent of that team.

    • JimC

      LLP needs to get hungry and if that means hitting the bench then so be it.

      I’m a huge Novak fan, but his impact is becoming less with each game lately.
      Shep is a probably a better rebounder, defender, and can drive the lane.

      Granted, I don’t think any of the lineup tinkering is the answer. This team as a whole needs to get more aggressive/confident/determined, and play like a TEAM.

    • Kevin

      As awful as that game was, I took solace in two things. 1. We played terrible in the first half, and were still able to still be within reach at halftime. 2. With such a young team and Beilein’s style of play, everyone kind of expected a couple games like this.

      Hopefully it’ll get better. I agree with many that Novak should get less minutes at the four, but i still like him there when we want to go “small(er)”.

    • I just read everyone of these posts and theories about whats wrong and I would like to add my mine. Make shots. If it seems overly simplistic, consider the fact that if UM would have shot poorly(35% from 3) rather than atrociously(16%) they would have won the PSU game and the OSU game. The point that is getting lost here is that UM does not have to shoot well(40% on 3s) to win, all we need is what would be considered average or less to win. The shots will soon start falling and this in turn will lead to much better defensive effort. Younf teams cannot maintain defensive intensity when the O is struggling, this has always been the case.

    • Giddings

      Let’s hope Northwestern cools off a little bit before Saturday… they’re giving Sparty a run for their money in East Lansing.

    • So who guards Kevin Coble on Saturday?

    • Frank

      Northwestern has gotten hot based on their ability to create turnovers and make their backdoor cuts. I fully expect to see more of Shepard in the next few games. I honestly don’t know why he stopped playing entirely.

    • Giddings

      I think we’ll see a healthy dose of the 1-3-1. Northwestern’s offense, like ours, is designed to exploit man-to-man defense.

      By the way, Northwestern is playing perfect Beilein Ball right now, getting outrebounded 30-18 and yet winning the game because they’re forcing TOs, holding onto the ball, and hitting 3s.

    • steve

      its sad to say, but obviously the NIT is becoming more and more of a reality, i don’t see them beating purdue, at crisler, or in west lafayette, but i think the best chance to steal one is going to be MSU at home.. have to believe everyone will get up for that game…

      but lets look at the positives even if the season doesnt turn out the way we had hoped:

      -manny will for sure be around for 3 if not 4 years, he is clearly not strong enough to take it to the hole against the big ten so obviously the NBA is out of the question
      -we lose hardly anything next year(CJ, Air Canada, and Mr. West Bloomfield)
      -were bringing in 3 solid players next year who should be ready to come in and contribute maybe not like Novak but at least the way Stu has, and if not at the very least the way Grady did last year. Although I am very impressed with Vogrich.

      lets not dwell on this year, even though its tough not to with the start that we had

      the future is bright, keep that in mind
      GO BLUE!

    • Paul

      This team needs to start getting back to the basic’s.
      Offensive rebounding is a must. Against Northwestern they need to show more energy and stop getting so,lost on the court. Stay focused. Your winning as a team not as one player.Set better picks. Stop falling off them so easy.
      Play tougher.Play together and stop this oh were down 20 points trend. This is how you won 13 games. Being a team.
      Always GO BLUE!

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