Michigan pulls away from Penn State in one of their best defensive performances of the season. In many ways this game was a mirror image of the game these two teams played at Penn State. The first half was relatively close in the first half before turning into a blowout down the stretch.
The defense that CJ Lee played on Talor Battle can’t be overstated. CJ got the start and was in Talor’s grill from the opening tip. CJ held Battle to 9 points on 3 of 15 shooting (1-9 3pt) and 3 turnovers. To give you an idea of how well Battle was playing he is averaging 18.7 ppg while shooting 39% from three point range in conference play. CJ wasn’t the only guard who played great defense; Dave Merritt and Stu Douglass played great defense as well.
I said before the game that the key for Michigan was defense and they answered with arguably their best defensive performance of the year. Michigan held Penn State to their season lows in: total points, offensive efficiency, and effective field goal percentage.
Michigan had to pick their poison on the defensive end and they chose Cornley. This was a good choice because Jamelle was going to get his regardless. Cornley is playing some great basketball right now and he even decided to unleash his three point shot tonight. In the first match up Michigan tried a ton of double teams but that allowed Penn State to unleash a three point barrage. This time the message was clear: lock down Penn State’s guards.
On offense it was the Manny Harris show. Manny looked focused from the start and tore apart the Nittany Lions. Manny did a great job keeping himself under control and you could even see him telling himself to calm down after a couple poor decisions early on. Manny plays with much more confidence on the offensive end when he can get to the free throw line. Tonight he had 14 free throw attempts for only his second double digit free throw game since Big Ten play began. Manny wasn’t a one man show; he dished the ball (7 assists), rebounded the ball (6 boards), and played defense (2 blocks, 2 steals) while only posting 2 turnovers. The most impressive stat here is that Manny had 6 assists and zero turnovers in the second half.
As a team I think Michigan did a very good job running the offense; they looked crisp, sharp, and prepared. There were a couple backdoor cuts and good ball movement throughout. It has been too long since I have seen that mystified smile and fist pump from DeShawn Sims after he makes the right pass on a backdoor cut. It wasn’t lights out shooting but Michigan scored 1.15 points per possession and shot an eFG% of 56.9%.
Michigan needed this one and they got it. Beilein said after the game that he told the team how important this one was and they responded. I don’t think Beilein will bother with his birthday cake tonight unless it is in the film room because Michigan has to face the #1 team in the country Saturday night. Michigan matches up extremely poorly with the Huskies but they really have nothing to lose. The game will likely boost their RPI regardless of a win or loss and will definitely boost their strength of schedule.
- Manny Harris: See above. Manny brought his A+ game and Michigan is going to need to see a lot more of it down the stretch. Manny clearly had the right reaction to his ejection. For what it is worth, I noticed Manny make an identical rip move in almost the same position on the court (of course he wasn’t closely guarded) with nearly identical technique.
- DeShawn Sims: Peedi was pretty much missing in action throughout the first half but he ended the game with a solid stat line: 9 points on 4 of 6 shooting with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. DeShawn didn’t get the start and only played 26 minutes but he did very well in the “hustle” statistics like rebounds, blocks, and steals.
- CJ Lee: CJ played 29 minutes, scored 5 points, dished 4 assists and locked down the likely Big Ten Player of the Year. In the biggest game of the year thus far it was the captain that stepped up and set the tone.
- Stu Douglass: Stu played the best defensive game of his career on Stanley Pringle while still playing well on offense: 5 of 9 shooting for 13 points and three rebounds. I think Stu has to be the starting 2-guard soon, he is playing far better than Laval right now.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: 0 points, 0-4, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover. Laval only played 4 minutes in the second half and he is really struggling. I don’t know what is going on in Laval’s head but it can’t be good.Â I think at this point the only thing you can do is reduce his minutes and let him work his way back.
- Zack Novak: Novak is still searching for his stroke but played well: 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. Zack didn’t play quite as many minutes as he had before his suspension. I don’t think he was getting quite enough lift on his shot in the second half but I would imagine a lot of that has to do from trying to guard Jamelle.
- Jevohn Shepherd: Jevohn played 13 minutes and had a big dunk to go along with 2 rebounds and 2 assists. I think that Shep will see a few minutes per game from here on out. Michigan will definitely need him against a far more athletic UConn team on Saturday.
- Zack Gibson: Gibson got the start and played 13 minutes while going 2 of 5 from the field for 4 points while pulling down 4 boards and grabbing a steal and a block. Two of the rebounds and three of the shots came on one possession so Gibson was relatively quiet but I think he played a solid game overall.
- Dave Merritt: The senior came up big on the defensive side of the ball and also hit a couple big shots. Merritt played thirteen minutes and while he didn’t do much that will show up on the stat sheet he continued the relentless pressure on Talor Battle.
- Kelvin Grady: 1 minute. According to Beilein’s post game comments it was his decision and Kelvin isn’t hurt. Kelvin got in the game once Penn State brought full court pressure but got yanked the moment he went under a screen and left Battle with a wide open three point shot. Beilein doesn’t usually chew people out on the sideline but he lit into Grady after that. I think Kelvin is going to have to step up the defensive effort (physical and mental) if he wants to get back on the floor.