Game 24: Michigan at Connecticut Post Game

Dylan Burkhardt
LLP Swatted By Thabeet

Bittersweet. UConn pulls away from Michigan in a 64 possession game. Michigan weathered the first UConn run, a quick 8-1 UConn start, and took it to the Huskies for most of the first half.  Unfortunately the Huskies were too much down the stretch as they pulled away for the 8 point win.

I am not going to deny it, I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to win this game. UConn had a size advantage at every position, Michigan struggles against big teams, and Connecticut has been playing the best basketball in the country. Not to mention the fact that Michigan played a game Thursday night and had little to no time to prepare for the #1 team in the nation.

I loved the way this team played Saturday night. They weren’t in the game because of hot shooting or a lucky barrage of three point shots, they were in it because they matched UConn’s physical play and came out with toughness and intensity. Michigan needs to find a way to bring that intensity every night down the stretch if they want to make the tournament. The offense has been running more smoothly the last several games and it is great to see Michigan get some of those easy backdoor looks.

Despite the grit and effort this one still stings. UConn is a great team but this game was there for the taking. Michigan had several chances to cut the Huskies lead to one possession with less than 4 minutes to play but three point attempts clanged off the rim before UConn pulled away. In a lot of ways there are some similarities between this and the Maryland loss; a tough road game where Michigan plays great in the first half but can’t finish the game. Connecticut is a much better team than Maryland but once you have played 35 minutes it doesn’t matter that the other team is #1 in the country, you just have to make plays. The positive here is that the Duke win came right after the Maryland disappointment.

Looking at the four factors, it came down to offensive rebounding and free throws. Connecticut had a free throw rate of 48.1% compared to Michigan’s 21.1%. The Huskies also rebounded 51.5% of their misses while Michigan only pulled down 21.1% of their misses. Michigan stayed in the game by forcing UConn to turn the ball over on 26.6% of their possessions and while they didn’t shoot it that well their eFG% of 46.5% kept them in the game. Michigan is going to need better shooting down the stretch, everyone not named Stu Douglass combined to shoot 3 of 21 (14%) from three point range.

Hasheem Thabeet is huge. He blocked a lot of shots, had a few easy dunks, and got a lot of offensive boards. I don’t know how Michigan could have stopped any of that. They took a similar approach to the Penn State game: let the big man get his and try to stop everyone else. I loved the way that Michigan mixed up the defenses, going with a 2-3 zone as well as their typical 1-3-1 and man to man looks. Adrien was frustrated all night (although he did pull down 14 boards) but Jerome Dyson was the guy who gave the Huskies the big lift as he hit 3 of 4 three point shots.

Tuesday is huge, there is no other way to put it. Beyond the rivalry it is a chance to get another quality win on the NCAA tournament resume. Michigan’s RPI moved up to 45 after last night and their SOS is at 15, these numbers should continue to move up as the season goes on. There will be tons of coverage of the MSU game here including some collaboration with KJ from the Spartans Weblog, a guest post on MGoBlog, and a typical game preview and recap.

Player Bullets:

  • Stu Douglass: A spectacular game for Douglass: 32 minutes, 20 points on 7 of 10 (6-8 3pt), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal, 2 turnovers. Stu has been playing well over the last couple games and it is a good thing with LLP’s disappearing act.
  • Manny Harris: Manny is starting to find his game again: 15 points, 5 of 16 shooting, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers. The shooting percentage isn’t glorious but Manny kept this team in the game for a while and also did a pretty good job holding onto the ball.
  • DeShawn Sims: Peedi was giving up so much size that it was tough to expect much. I loved how active Sims was in the first half, he got a couple easy buckets off cuts and Michigan penetration. This disappeared down the stretch and the shot that everyone is going to remember is the late three pointer that hit off back iron.
  • Zack Gibson: I loved Zack Gibson’s effort: 21 minutes, 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block. Obviously a tough match up for all of our big men but I thought Zack battled in there as best he could against Thabeet.
  • Zack Novak: Zack is starting to hit the freshman wall: 18 minutes, 7 points on 2 of 7 (0-4 3pt) shooting and 2 rebounds. I think Zack has tired legs and it is affecting his jumper, hopefully he can get it back because Michigan needs some production behind the arc out of Novak.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry: Not pretty. Laval continues to struggle and I don’t know what the deal is. It seems like Beilein will give him a chance at the start of the game and then cut his losses. If Stu keeps playing this well he will continue to see most of the minutes at the 2.
  • CJ Lee: 31 minutes, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers. Not spectacular for CJ but I think his veteran leadership is a calming force for this team, especially on the road.
  • Dave Merritt: Not really giving Michigan much on offense but I thought he looked solid overall.
  • Anthony Wright and Jevohn Shepherd: Shep picked up a bunch of fouls and that spoiled his chance at serious playing time. Anthony Wright stepped in and hit a big three point shot in transition in the first half (although he traveled).
  • Kelvin Grady: Kelvin is not going to play until he plays the kind of defense he needs to. I would assume that this starts in practice. If you are a 5-foot-9 guard you can’t get blown by and you have to do everything the right way on defense. CJ Lee’s defense has been impressive, Kelvin’s not so much.

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  • AG2

    This morning on ESPN, Joe Lunardi projected Michigan as “First Four Out” with a 35% chance of making the tournament. He said that if Michigan manages a .500 record in the Big Ten, they will make the tournament.

  • Thanks AG2. That seems pretty reasonable.. Pomeroy gives us about a 30% chance to win each of our remaining games besides a 57% shot against Minnesota at home.

    Here is Lunardi from Friday about head-to-head matchups:

  • San Diego Blue

    I thought it was interesting that we decided to go Big with both Gibson and Sims in the game (and often with Shep/Wright/Novak if I remember correctly). It seems like next year it will be easier to do that with the incoming big guys… How about Puls coming in and getting a block. Kind of sad Grady lost his consecutive game streak. I still think he brings more than Merritt, better ball handling, quicker, much better 3s, better drives… Hard to judge Defense, but I guess that’s the issue

  • I don’t think Shep/Wright/Novak played the three for more than a couple minutes in the first half.

    Puls getting in the game was nice for him but he was clearly outmatched, I felt bad for him.

  • gpsimms

    i’ve been pulling for grady all year, he might be my favorite…but, i have to admit beilein really looks like a genius for yanking him the past few games. the team clearly plays better overall because of the defense with lee in.

    that said, kelvin is still much better on the offensive end. the problem is he’s not better enough. sure his a:to ratio is pretty solid, but its like 3 a, 1 to per game with 4-7 points. A quality starting point guard has to produce more, and since he doesn’t, it makes more sense to go with CJ who at least brings it on the d-end.

    however, at the end of the uconn game, when uconn was pressuring and we had to score quickly, we all saw how outmatched poor cj was trying to move the ball up quickly. it’s hard to put a cold guy in in that situation with so little time left, but i really think kelvin gives us a shot at that game. he breaks press like nothing, and he can shoot an open three. cj not as much.

    again, not saying cj shouldn’t have played. he brings a lot more than kelvin overall…we just need kg at the end there.

  • Alan

    As the season goes on, I am more and more excited about getting Darius Morris in AA next year. I love CJ Lee’s leadership and hustle, but getting more tangible production from the point guard position will be huge. Not only will Darius add length to the 1-3-1, at 6’4″ instead of 5’9″ or 5’10”, but he should bring a more consistent scoring presence to the position. Also, at least from reports on here, it seems like he has a healthy swagger, which could be a bonus for this team next year. At any rate, he will have every chance to succeed while playing with Manny and Deshawn. Although I still have much hope that UM makes the tourney this year, I am definitely excited for next year.

  • ryan

    what is the status on raymar Morgan? will he be playing in the game Tuesday?

  • blueinflorida

    Nice post Dylan.

    I thought we played a great game and just ran out of gas/bodies at the end. It’s a little frustrating knowing the game was there for the taking but at the same time who would have thought we’d have kept it that close the whole game going in? Not me.

    I love CJ Lee. I understand he doesn’t bring much offensively but his defensive intensity rubs off on everyone. He also does a good job organizing the offense and ensuring guys are in the right spots. Too mad he can’t really shoot…

    It’s a bit mystifying how Kelvin Grady just got cut out of the lineup entirely this late in the year. I understand the whole defense thing, but he brings more than Merritt, especially his ability to penetrate. LLP is mystifying as well. I have no clue what’s going on with him.

    One thing I would have done differently is brought Novak in a little bit sooner at say the 4 minute mark of the second half and taken Gibson out. Gibson just wasn’t doing a whole lot at that point and we needed shooters out on the floor. I thought Beilein waited a little too long to take Gibson out late. Still, with the guys he has at his disposal, Beilein did an excellent job.

    We have to put this behind us, learn from it and get ready for State on Tuesday. A win Tuesday and we’re back in the drivers seat. If we play the way we played tonight, we will beat State.

  • Steve

    I have a question for people that know more about basketball than I do.

    Could the addition of a legitimate big man in the UM line-up make them as lethal as I think they could be?

    I understand M runs a perimeter offense and a variety of defenses, but I couldn’t help thinking while watching the UConn game, how unstoppable M would be if we swapped Sims for Thabeet in that game. Imagine the ability to stretch a defense with solid perimeter shooting (not necessarily threes) with an option to drop it low if the other team presses that for an easy inside shot, ala many of Thabeets yesterday. On defense, imagine a 1-3-1 with that last one being someone that can legitimately challenge a shot when the ball does get inside.

    So i understand that it is simple to say that ‘we would be a great team if we had everything’, but is there something about Belein and his system that would make this not beneficial? Is it a case that this type of 7′ player is really that rare? Perhaps they only have to be 80% of Thabeet to have this kind of impact? Might this be some kind of adjustment to B’ system that is necessary to compete in the Big 10 day-in and day-out?

    From what i have seen, it looks like we are recruiting more and more shooters and it doesn’t seem like we are looking to size up in any significant way. Perhaps we just aren’t that attractive to a 7′ recruit who might see their role as diminished in a perimeter system?

  • Puls recorded a block? How overmatched did he look, was the block legit?

  • AG2

    I don’t agree about Grady. He’s very small, he’s a streaky shooter at best, and he’s a huge liability on defense. Yeah he’s fast, but its not like our transition game has worked very well all season. And ultimately, CJ Lee is a better decision maker.

  • Puls also fell down cutting through the lane. They put him in there because Sims and Gibson both had 2 fouls with 1:30 or so left in the first half. He looked clearly over his head but I guess the block was “legit”, it was just as much Manny’s block as well.

  • I have 2 issues with our team right now
    1. Sims and Gibson should not be shooting 3s, the percentages prove its not a positive for the team.

    2.Novak and LLP have really let this team down. They are supposed to be good shooters and this team desperately needs something from them. How many 0fers can you have! Im really frustrated by these 2 guys. They are the key to the season, one of then has to step up.

  • KJay

    I really thought CJ was key to us hanging around yesterday. It’s amazing that he’s now the primary ball handler after playing backup to Manny for much of the season. I think Beilein wasn’t so much worried about Grady’s defense, but more about his penchant for quick shots and impatience in the offensive sets. Kelvin is quick but UConn has four guards who are just as quick if not quicker. So Beilein went with the guy who could manage the game better and set the tone. Calhoun wanted a track meet, he said as much in the post game interviews.

  • i am bill

    Steve, have you even looked at the recruits Beilein has signed?

    You say “it doesn’t seem like we are looking to size up in any significant way.”

    Next year we lose;
    5’10” David Merritt
    6’0″ CJ Lee
    6’5″ Jevohn Shephard

    We add;
    6’3″ Darius Morris
    6’4″ Matt Vogrich
    6’8″ Jordan Morgan
    6’10” Blake McLimans
    7’0″ Ben Cronin

    We will go from two players over 6’8″, to having 5.

    And we know that Beilein is looking to add another big in 2010, paying particular interest to Will Regan, 6’8″.

  • JayRich

    Anyone got any thoughts on Big Ben Cronin and what he is going to be able to do next year. I know he is tall but how good is he. I haven’t seen much tape and I know he played against nobody’s in high school. I am just hoping we can have a legitimate center in the future. I don’t think Jordan Morgan the answer there since he is on the short end of things. I really like the idea of

    SF- Harris

    Good starting five with size, penetrators, and shooters. Great bench with novak, LLP, Vogrich, morgan/gibson. Call us West Virginia. If Cronin can’t play….consider next year’s team a mirror image with more experience. (douglass and novak, in particular, maybe LLP can make something)

    Just wanted some thoughts on our height problems for next year. I know next year is a long way away, but this year seems to be slipping……………

  • JimC

    Seems like that loss improved the national opionion of M…

    How do we retract all the hype that LLP got before he started.
    I know it’s early in his career, but wow has he tanked.

    Go Blue, I totally agree about Sims and Gibson. It seems they get lazy or tired or something, and start launching.

  • AG2

    Off topic, but I’m watching the Lakers/Cavs game and when the lakers take free throws, the video board operator puts a Michigan logo on the board so the fans will boo. Talk about obsessing.

  • Michigan Fan

    I get CJ playing over Grady, but I can’t understand Merritt playing instead of Grady. Grady is much quicker and a better ball-handler than Merritt. Merritt can’t really do much on the floor. Is Merritt really that much better on defense than Grady? I don’t understand how Grady just completely disappeared?

  • Sheryl

    OT: Dumes suspended indefinately.

  • Beast1530

    The problem with LLP is he’s in the same situation as the teams has been from last season. He looked a bit lost in running the offense and the spacing is noticeably worse with LLP on the floor. He’ll get better next season with familiarity of the system. On top of that, he’s missing open jumpers. I’m thinking that he’s hitting a wall right now.

    The reason why I don’t mind seeing Gibson and Sims shooting 3’s is they need to lure Thabeet out of the paint so Michigan can cut to the basket as well as drive to the hoop. Having a big guy who can shoot is so important for Beilein because it spreads out the defense thus forcing defenders to guard in every area at half court.

    Douglass finally is developing a rhythm and hopefully it’ll continue til the season ends.

  • Avery Queen

    i feel like the grady thing is not about strictly is he better than lee or merritt but that beilein is trying to prove a point to kg. hopefully it will get through to him because when uconn tightened up on d down the stretch i think we coulda used him. without question lee has been playing great but grady (at least offensively) has something to offer that he does not and with llp and novak not hitting lately we could use him.

  • Tom

    Sitting KG has directly lowered our bad three point attempts by 5 a game.

    I don’t really get why people are saying that KG brings so much more to the table. The only thing he does significantly better is break a press. CJ Lee is our best 3pt shooter by percentage. I’ll take that, the improvement in defense, and the smarts running the offense over the ability to break a press any day.

  • Beast I agree Beileins system needs a big who can shoot but the percentages show that Gibson and Sims do not shoot well from behind the arch. No Pittsnoogles here, so just stay down low and bang.

  • Beast1530

    Go Blue, I’m talking about them shooting threes against UConn. I wouldn’t want them to bang down low against Thabeet who is one of the premier shotblocker in the country.

  • Josh B

    Novak may have hit a wall a bit, but I think the staff will get him back to the right shooting fundamentals. A couple weeks ago I pointed out that Stu needed to focus on getting his feet set and letting the game slow down a bit. Recently he’s got himself into a better shooting position and starting hitting shots. His quick release was evident against UCONN and he no longer looked like he was rushing shots.

    It seems Novak has the opposite problem, he has not been squaring his upper body and consistently fades or drifts away from the basket. Beilein and the staff know shooting, and I’m sure they will help Novak solve this problem. The kid earns his minutes by contributing in other areas, but I think Zack Novak will be hitting big shots for M down the stretch.

    I wish I saw some sort of obvious error in LLP’s form, but I cannot see anything significantly different from the Oakland debut where he couldn’t miss. He continues to take shots that are within the offense, but they just don’t seem to be falling. Maybe the biggest problem with LLP is that his offensive struggles seem to affect his defense. His on-ball defense is no longer a strength. Maybe he needs to focus on getting to the basket and creating for others. We’ll need LLP to help creat easy offense in road games against NW, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

  • JimC

    LLP can drive, almost as good as Manny.

    I think JB knows what he’s doing with Grady.

    Another huge game tomorrow. Maybe they’re all huge now.

  • Kenny

    The solid performance on national TV against No 1 team on the road. Despite a loss, I think that it actually increases our chance of getting into the tournament with 9-9 conference record. But they boys had to fight for 4 more wins which requires a win over teams like MSU, Purdue at home or over Wisconsin and Minnesota on the road.

    a while ago, I was talking about Novak playing too many minutes at 4 which was more than he physically can handle, and that affected his shot. But the one who is really hitting the wall is LLP, hope that LLP be back soon. Can’t say enough about two captains, Lee and Merritt are doing all they can and are playing above and beyond. When Novak and Stu be seniors, they will be captains and a formidable duo.

    Need a win over MSU and the boys can do it.

  • Avery Queen


    1) I completely disagree that KG only takes bad 3’s. I’d say he’s pretty disciplined in shot selection and while not being a great shooter is at least consistent (unlike pretty much the rest of our team). I think his biggest problem offensively is throwing passes that aren’t there.

    2) I wasn’t arguing at all against Lee but he can’t play 40 minutes. Now if you compare KG and Merritt, well I don’t think there is much to compare. I think Beilein has been trying to send KG a message and he’ll be playing more tomorrow.

    3) Grady does bring something to the table other than breaking the press and that is transition offense and dribble penetration.

  • Steve

    I am bill,

    I did look at the recruit list and I guess Ben and Blake do fill out the middle with some height, but I would not put them in the same category as Thabeet.

    That said, I guess ‘Thabeets’ are few and far between and can pretty much choose whichever program in the country they want to get a scholarship from, which at this point wouldn’t be Michigan. Ben Cronin will be a god segue into rounding out the team to better compete against bigger size and hopefully that will pave the way for even more/beefier/dominating big men in the future.