Game 23: Penn State at Michigan Post Game

Dylan Burkhardt

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.

Player Bullets:

  • 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.  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.

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  • I didn’t watch the game but it’s very nice to read that Lee stepped up big. Lee would be a heckuva coach in my opinion.

  • Drew

    CJ needs to start. He hustles his tail off, rebounds, and defends. He brings so much leadership and we need that. He can shoot the open three, too. And honest to God, what is wrong with LLP? He can’t throw in the ocean from the beach.

  • Austin

    Also couldn’t watch it, but I like the sounds of it. Phenomenal second half. Tremendous defense. The return of the back door cut. I like the 3PT numbers, also. 10/26. 26 three pointers is a lot for a general offense team, but that is a good number for this Michigan team. Not an outrageous amount, but enough to keep the offense moving.

    CJ Lee, in my opinion, needs to continue in this role. I think scoring options will always be found with Harris, Sims, and Stu/Novak, but his defense is a complete necessity for the remainder of the season. Plus, it isn’t like he can’t pop a few threes and layups. His defense cannot be understated, plus his presence on the floor seems to be a settling influence on the rest of the guys.

    This was a must win, and they responded. I think we can still roadies at NU and Iowa, split with Minny and steal one from Purdue or MSU, and hit the magic 9 wins. It’ll be close, but hope prevails.

  • Jayson

    Great win….maybe THE best game played all year….if cornley was off at all, this would have been ugly for PSU. I feel UCONN game is a win-win situation….no pressure on us and thats when we surprise people. I expect a competitive game and if we can shoot well enough it will be interesting….i just really hope we can build off of this game and bring back the confidence/swaggar.

  • Giddings

    The PG defense thing is very, very interesting and really was the key to the win tonight. You gotta give Beilein credit… he had a plan to win this game (lock down on the PSU guards, don’t let them get open looks for 3s), watched a lot of film to determine how he would do so (recognizing that Kelvin plays lackluster perimeter defense, while Dave and especially CJ are excellent at it), and made the necessary lineup moves (starting CJ and demoting Grady to 3rd string).

    I was right behind the bench when Beilein was chewing out Grady – it was pretty ridiculous. Clearly, JB has realized that he needs to instill a certain defensive mindset into his players in order to be successful for the rest of the season.

  • Grady should know better by now, way too talented to be behind Lee and Merritt.

  • bball

    Great post-game Dylan. I saw Grady sag below that screen and was very disappointed. Very frustrating that he is stuck in bad habits on defense. It is clearly a mental thing because he has all the physical tools. He is only a sophomore and has a lot of potential still. He has a lot of experience and we are going to need him before this season is done. On the other hand…Stu’s defense the past few games has to be nominated for the most improved individual skill of the year so far. What a great job he’s done lately getting in good physical position, anticipating and really concentrating on that end of the floor. LLP has seemed to just fade away. I think he will snap out of it in time for this stretch run, which could be huge. If he gets hot in the big 10 tournament, watch out. Great assist numbers tonight too. Lee really moves the offense and Manny seemed to be forcing things less. His early 3 makes really sparked the team. Getting DeShawn some extra rest really helps the defense too I think. Great coaching job/game plan from Beilein and an awesome response from the kids. Great win! Go Blue!

  • Merlin

    Brilliant coaching by Beilein tonight. Went back to the Dec lineup and it worked great. Defense was excellent. Manny was brilliant but Stu also had a great game. One of the best games we played all year and I think Beilein has a winning lineup now.

  • Also, I didn’t put this in the post but what do you guys think about Beilein RE: Grady? He basically said that you can’t really play more than 4 guards? Haven’t we been playing more than 4 guards all year? Is that a message going forward?

  • EchoWhiskey

    That was an impressive all-around effort tonight. Not only was the defensive intensity up, but the offense was crisp and decisive. I really think CJ is the glue that holds this team together. He’s got enough talent that when coupled with his determination and effort he deserves more minutes. Him and Merritt are the emotional leaders, but he brings more to the table athletically. When has a post-game ever had anything negative to say about him?

  • Ken in Las Vegas

    It hurt me to see Grady demoted tonight, because he is my favorite player on the squad, but I can’t argue with results. It seems like Beilein has a different game plan and lineup for every match up, so this just may have been a result of film study. If a team is known to full court press, Grady probably starts. No head band tonight? Good to see Wright get another 3 pointer for his confidence.

    Great win. Good to have a no pressure game on Saturday, but then it’s back to me being a nervous wreck for the stretch run.

  • steve

    LOVED the game tonight. I don’t think it was so much about getting Grady to play defense as it was prepping for the next few games. Grady pushing the ball up and hitting 2 or 3 threes a game, if were lucky, is not what is going to win the game on saturday or the game against State. (lets face it Grady isnt going to match up against Kalin, period… we need someone to lock him down-like CJ) We had to get Gibson the minutes, and we had to get Shep the minutes, because if we dont play them in these next 2 games we are going to get run over. Great game though, obviously a must win, and we did it. Loved Stu’s intensity, i was constantly yelling “STUMANJI!”- Big game Saturday, but i agree with what was said earlier in the fact that win or lose, we will gain some RPI points, and plus i got 10 bucks that we stay within 20. The game on saturday means nothing. the big game is against state. RIVALRY. RECRUITING. PRIDE. If you cant get up for this one, GO HOME!

    GO BLUE!

  • Mith

    Nice win, I enjoyed it. That’s been a rarity lately! I think UConn probably blows them out by 20, but maybe the boys surprise me and hang in for a close game. The key game now is MSU. We need to take 1 or 2 of the “probably lose” games on our schedule, and this is one of those(along with Purdue, @Wisconsin, @Minnesota). A win over Sparty resets us at 6-6 and I feel confident they can scratch out 3 wins over the remaining 6.

  • MaizeNBlue2

    I didn’t get to see the first half, but my thoughts on the Grady situation: I don’t know what’s going through his head, honestly. You know they’ve been telling him all week that he has to get over the screens and has to pick it up defensively. At the time, I didn’t know he’d been on the bench the whole game, but when he went under that screen, the first thing I said was “He’s going to be on the bench when they come back from the TO.”

    I do agree that it’s mostly mental. He’s got the athleticism, obviously. He just has to gain that mindset that he’s going to defend. I almost look to C.J. to try and install that in him. I agree that he’s definitely the glue that holds the team together. I really think he ought to talk with him about it outside of practice and see what the results are. Because, obviously, Grady’s going to have to defend next year, or he won’t see the court.

    I don’t know how much of a defender Darius Morris is, but he’ll eat those PG minutes if Grady doesn’t get it together. Let’s face it, Grady could be a major factor if he’d learn to defend. His decision making is light years ahead of last year, and he’s a press-breaking machine. We just need him to learn to defend.

    As far as the game, the defense really set the tone in the second half. C.J. was amazing on Battle. You could see that Talor was clearly frustrated in the second half. Great game plan, great win.

    I know it’s going to be rough with the 7-footer (Thabeet) at UConn, and I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but I believe we can hang with them. If we shoot well, we can be right in it in the end. This is definitely the kind of game we thrive on, even our own fans are wondering if we can keep it within 20. He’s to hoping for a shocker tomorrow. Go Blue!

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  • Tom

    This may be my inner-coach coming through, but…

    Am I the only one who looks at the UConn game as simply a learning game/scrimmage? If I’m coaching, I know we’ve got State coming up. That’s the game that matters. The UConn game is meaningless. Personally, I use the UConn game to get Zack Gibson, Jevohn Shephard, and LLP some extended minutes. See what they can do and prepare them for the upcoming week.

    Specifically, use this game to allow Zack to get some experience guarding a big (Thabeet) so when he goes up against one of Wisconsin’s interchangeable 6’10 white guys he can do so with confidence.

    Get Shep some minutes and see if you can integrate him into the offense. If Shep can be adequete at the offensive end, having his rebounding out there is a big help.

    And use this game as LLP’s last chance to earn some PT. As it is right now, there’s no way he should start, or even play, against State. It’s too important of a game to not have the players that are playing the best on the floor (as opposed to the players with the most talent on the floor).

    Side note: CJ Lee = win. CJ not only is a lock down defender, but with him on the court the amount of stupid threes we take drops dramatically. Also, he’s shooting the highest percentage from trey land on the team. He should be starting and getting the bulk of the PG minutes.

  • Avery Queen

    If I’m Calhoun I press. So if I’m Beilein I’m now forced to play Grady for better or worse. Either way it will be a thabeet down unless we absolutely rain 3s.

  • Walt

    Dylan, didn’t Beilein mean ‘play 4 guards AT THE SAME TIME’? Everybody is announced as a guard but Gibson/Sims.

    Yesterday was JB’s birthday, which also happens to be the same as my birthday. So it was great to receive the 20 point victory gift — plus they played Happy Birthday when the game was over. That made it extra-special sweet for me!

  • ling pen

    We own penn state

  • JimC

    LLP – I’m getting downright angry at this guy – he does Nothing on offense lately. And Novak’s shooting has disappeared.
    Other than that, everyone played great. Terrific intensity in the 2nd half.

    …sorry I’m late Dylan, I flew to Fort Myers today, and 2 of my 3 flights were delayed. :)

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