Game 17: Connecticut at Michigan Post Game

Dylan Burkhardt

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For forty minutes on Sunday afternoon, Michigan fans got a taste of what this season was supposed to be. Michigan was focused and excited to play on the national stage and relishing the underdog role once again, they gutted out a win over Connecticut. (Video highlights here)

Throughout the first half, everything seemed to go Michigan’s way. Michigan got the lead after getting hot from three point range and going on a 17-2 run in the middle of the half. Anthony Wright (2-18 before today), Stu Douglass, and Laval Lucas-Perry each hit a pair of three pointers in the first half. Most importantly, Jerome Dyson picked up his second foul early on and sat for 17 minutes of the half. Michigan caught a few breaks and made enough plays to earn a 9 point halftime lead.

The second half was a different story. Jerome Dyson led Connecticut back into the game and Michigan found themselves in a dogfight for the final 15 minutes of play. Luckily, Michigan was ready to fight. They battled on the backs of Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, and Zack Novak and throughout the last 8 minutes it seemed to be one of those three who made every big play. Sims (4), Harris (9), and Novak (7) combined for 20 of Michigan’s final 22 points in the last 12 minutes (all but 2 Douglass FTs late). In a 58-58 game with 1:30 to play it was Zack Novak who hit the shot of the game, a three pointer from the top of the key off a Manny Harris assist. A Douglass steal on the next UConn possession and a Harris fast break layup put Michigan up 5 and the rest was history.

Statistically it certainly wasn’t pretty. This win was much more about grit and hustle than efficient play. Michigan barely outshot Connecticut, 44.9% eFG% to 42.7%, thanks to hitting a number of three point shots. Michigan scored 1.01 points per possession to Connecticut’s 0.94 in a 67 possession game that was played at Michigan’s tempo. Michigan did a decent job of holding onto the ball, turning it over on 19% of their possessions. Most importantly they rebounded 36.6% of their missed shots and managed 20 second points against the a team with a dramatic height advantage.

Michigan threw the kitchen sink at UConn on defense, they played some 1-3-1 zone, some 2-3 zone, and a healthy portion of man-to-man. Michigan forced UConn to turn the ball over on 25% of their possessions but UConn stayed in the game thanks to great offensive rebounding (43% OR%) and getting the the free throw line (FTA/FGA = 45.5%). In the second half, Michigan’s guards really struggled to stay with Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson but they managed to clamp down when it counted and pull off a victory.

For those of you that think Michigan has underachieved this year, imagine being in UConn’s shoes. UConn is 11-6 and are in the middle of a three game losing stream. Not to mention the fact that they play four five star recruits: Alex Oriakhi, Kemba Walker, Ater Majok, and Stanley Robinson. Not to mention their leading scorer Jerome Dyson was a four star recruit ranked in the top 50. For comparison’s sake, Michigan plays two top 50 recruits (Sims and Harris), both four stars.

This loss makes Michigan’s 3-2 start to conference play a little more disappointing. Northwestern was not only a frustrating loss but it appears that it might have been a chance quality win. Michigan’s RPI is still in the 100s so any talk of an NCAA tournament bid is still a long shot to say the least. It appears that Michigan will have to win 11 or 12 conference games to make a strong argument as a bubble team. It doesn’t get any easier next week, Michigan hits the road for games at Wisconsin (without Leuer) and Purdue. The good news is that Michigan is playing their best basketball of the year, the bad news is that very few teams leave the Kohl Center or Mackey Arena with a victory.

novak-connPlayer Bullets:

  • Zack Novak: 28 minutes, 10 points, 4 rebounds, one steal, one block. The statline doesn’t wow you but how can you not love Zack Novak. The fact that he hit the biggest shot of the game and battled against 6-foot-9 guys the entire game is great but there was one stretch that defined Zack Novak: He swatted an alley-oop attempt on defense and then hustled up the floor and rebounded a missed three pointer for a putback basket. The hustle and determination was obvious from Novak down the stretch, the kid is a warrior.
  • Manny Harris: It wasn’t Harris’ best performance but despite his somewhat sloppy stat line (5-15 shooting, 4 turnovers) I thought he played very well. He played within the offense and rebounded very well (8 rebounds, 5 offensive). His ability to get to the line in the second half was huge for Michigan. Harris also seemed to get better as the game went on, making tons of plays in the last 10 minutes.
  • DeShawn Sims: I didn’t expect much from Sims offensively against the bigger and stronger Connecticut interior defense and Sims didn’t provide much: 8 points on 4 of 11 shooting. What Peedi did provide was effort on defense, especially on the glass with his 11 rebounds. To his credit, Sims did come away with some timely baskets down the stretch thanks to a few nifty cuts.
  • Stu Douglass: This was the kind of floor game that Michigan needs from Stu every night. 13 points on 4 of 12 (3-10 3pt) shooting with 4 assists, 2 steals, and only one turnover. Douglass wasn’t hot from long range but he hit a few and also managed to play in control and hold onto the ball after turnover struggles in the last two games.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry: It’s a lot easier to win when Laval hits a couple threes and he managed two big ones in the first half yesterday. He’s still a bit passive on offense, so I wasn’t surprised to see that UConn put Dyson on him for much of the second half in effort to keep him out of foul trouble, but he had a strong performance. My biggest knock was his foolish turnover at the end of the game. I really like the way that Laval is starting to rebound the ball of late
  • Anthony Wright: Anthony Wright hit three threes after going 2 for 18 all year. It was his best performance since the Oklahoma game last year and luckily Michigan didn’t spoil it. Wright is obviously a limited player but he deserves credit for stepping up with Novak on the bench with foul trouble.
  • Zack Gibson: Gibson also provided quality minutes off the bench. He scored 4 points and 4 rebounds as well as a huge block in the first half. Gibson played with energy and didn’t turn it over.
  • Darius Morris: This was one of those performances when you remember that freshmen not named John Wall will still be freshmen. Morris has been improving over the last couple weeks but he just didn’t give Michigan much today.

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  • I really liked the bench play this game. It’s about time the non starters contributed. It’s too bad we didn’t get just two more wins in the non-conference schedule. The NCAA tournament mountain is just going to be too big to climb.

  • It’s hard not to kick yourself about the Alabama and Boston College games… If Michigan had those two in the bag they would be 12-5 with one more top 100 win (Bama) and two top 50 wins (OSU and Conn). That would certainly look a lot better than 10-7 * right now…

    Forgot the Northern game, which was D2 and doesn’t show on a lot of sites.

  • The great thing about living and dying with the 3’s like Michigan does is obviously the living part. I know this is way down the road and COMPLETE speculation but who is to say Michigan can’t get hot in the Big Ten Tournament and win the thing? This win proved to me (and maybe even the players) that they can knock down big shots. Maybe they can do it again in early March?

  • AG2

    Well, let’s not speculate about the Big Ten Tournament just yet. Selection Sunday weekend is a long ways away and we still have to see how Michigan matches up with Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Sparty, and Evan Turner.

  • MarcO

    Why does manny wait ’till there’s 4 minutes left in the game to start really attacking the basket? He does it so effectively that just about every game they’ve won, they’ve won because manny put the team on his back. Why can’t he do it earlier?

    Imagine if Manny attacked the lane all game. He’d put up 30, would put most of their team in foul trouble, would get tons of easy looks from the line, and would put a ton of pressure on the opponents offense because he’s generating so many “easy” baskets.

    What this season could’ve been…

  • Austin

    At this point, with good ones over OSU and UCONN, I agree, Dylan. There is some serious regret in the fanbase and probably the team about some of those early season games. Alabama was just a crushing loss. BC was a game they clearly should have won, and you’re right, that Northwestern loss could prove to be a blown opportunity.

    I can’t say that I’m not glad to have some excitement back in the program. While UCONN isn’t necessarily the greatest team. A game like this just once again shows me that Michigan can lose to anyone at any time, yet beat anyone at any time. They could come away with one of these next three and somehow win 11. I should, for my sanity, give up hope, but I think I’ll hold onto it a bit longer.

  • KDavis

    I disagree, MarcO. I thought Manny attacked the basket the entire game. Of his 15 shot attempts, maybe 4 or 5 were jump shots. It seemed like everytime he caught the ball on the left wing he was driving right, through the middle of the lane or he was curling screens at the elbow extended and driving the lane. Perfect example was his dunk in the first half. I also thought he was on the wrong end of a couple of no-calls in the first half, but that’s to be expected against a team that has led the nation in blocked shots since 2002. At the beginning of the second half, his offensive rebound/put back was another result of him being active around the rim. And of his jump shots, I don’t remember him forcing one. The shot that stands out was in the second half when UConn failed to rotate and Manny had a wide open 3 from the left wing. He missed. As we’ve seen plenty this year, that happens. I think Manny should be that aggressive every game, but it’s crazy to say he only began doing it with 4 minutes left in the game. Another positive was when Manny didn’t get the calls at the basket. Too many times he hangs his head or gets frustrated when he feels he had been fouled. I didn’t see any of that yesterday. He just kept battling.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Is it Wednesday yet?

  • UMIndy

    I’m still smiling.

    I’m incredibly excited about watching this team down the road when we are stocked with guys who have 3 and 4 years experience playing in the system, no matter if they are 2 star supposedly non-athletic guys or 5 star studs. Now that is going to be fun!

  • Topher

    Our record is 10-7! I’m glad some people like to short us a game and delete posts. Very mature and very classy.

  • AA

    What are your thoughts regarding the rush of the crowd to the court at the end of the game?

    This drew some derogatory comment from the two announcers at the end of the game who did their best to rain on a very happy Michigan moment.

    I am tired of the announcers supporting our opposition. Kellogg (OSU) and Kelser (Spartan on the B10 channel who constantly makes comparisons to the Spartans) are prime examples.

    I do not think UConn played impressively or with enough heart and soon will dive much lower in the rankings with their unfortunate strength of schedule. Texas next is rough.

    Magnificant Wolverine effort. National TV and a large and enthusiastic crowd. Nice win.

    We will have to wait and see what it means in the long run, but the Wolverines are certainly better off with it.

  • JayRich

    I know Novak’s line isn’t much but it’s games like these that really make me wish that Michigan had a center and that novak could be a small forward. Novak has no chance of putting together big numbers against teams like UCONN that play 4 legit post players. When the team gets some more size (McLimans, Morgan, Smotrycz, Horford: maybe) and Novak can play the 3, we will see even more just how important he really is to the team. He is our Chris Kramer and is so much fun to watch.

  • gpsimms

    except chris kramer is not playing very well rght now. check out his +/- over at

  • gpsimms

    huge week for us. if we can pull off one of the two, we are right back in it. for the record, kenpom says there is a 18.08% chance we win 1 of the two, and a 0.96% chance we win both, while there is a 80.96% chance we lose both.

    Someone please make the requisite dumb and dumber quote at this point.

  • jds

    Rushing the court was completely justified. You’re talking about UCONN, a Final Four team last year. Yea, we’re supposed to act like “we’ve been there” before….but we really haven’t in the last decade aside from last year. There haven’t been too many bright spots in UM athletics recently so let the students vent a little even if they are bandwagon. Seems like the announcers sipped on some U of M hatorade…and way to botch “Lucas Laval Perry” 40 times. Can’t wait to beat up on the Huskies again next year in the Big House!

  • The Berg

    If we beat Michigan State at home are we going to rush the floor again too? I thought the student section was exceptional all game and has been all season. Definitely an advantage.

    More thoughts on the game can be found here…

  • Erik

    I agree about manny attacking. I guess it’s just not part of beileins offense but it’s too bad because I think Manny could take anyone in the country off the dribble.

  • … as long as they don’t make him go left.

    That being said, I thought Manny was attacking the whole game. Beilein loves to get him the ball coming around a curl on the wing where he can drive through the lane.

  • Tweeter

    a little late gpsimms, but . . . So your saying there’s a chance.

    Manny certainly cannot take anyone in the country off the dribble. He basically tries to take his man off the dribble every time he touches it, but succeeds only a handful of times each game. Part of that is that there is help defense as well, but Manny still has a ways to go in improving his ball handling to the point where he can take just about anyone. Rivers shut him down pretty easily in game one in Indiana, and last year Walton was wearing his jersey all game.

  • Giddings

    We somehow got 6 votes in the coaches poll this week… by the way, Purdue landed in the dreaded #15 spot, watch out!

  • Kevin

    Did anyone else notice the difference in Uconn defending Manny compared to big ten teams? Teams in the Big Ten clearly do a much better job while yesterday he had many chances due to the subpar defense.

    Also, our entire transition offense (especially darius) is “get the ball to Manny”. Not complaining because it works. Just an observation.

  • Fab54ever

    I thought our execution was the key down the stretch. We ran the offense and didn’t take dumb shots. Some nice post passes ran down low to sims and the open look from novak are prime examples. Beilein has said all season and even the announcers have pointed out numerous times that we look like we are playing too fast on offense. Give some love to Gibson and Anthony Wright who may have found his shot once again. Win one of the next three and we have a chance.

  • maxwell’s demon

    To Drew Sharp, I mean Kevin – No I did not notice.

  • GoBlue

    Douche bag announcer gets paid to know the names of players and calls Laval, “Lucas laval” repeatedly. Then slips UM fans for celebrating.

  • MarcO

    Kdavis, Great discussion, thanx for the response. I agree that Manny was active around the basket and played a solid game.

    What I see from Manny is that he often catches the ball above the 3-point line and just passes it off. He is well-respected and frequently draws double teams. He could kick-start the offense every time he touches the ball by putting the ball on the floor, making the pass, and finding an open man. Would love to see more of it because there doesn’t appear to be anyone else on the team who can.

    I often have misconceptions in my own mind that LLP and Morris can do that. Then, the ball is tipped and I am quickly reminded that they don’t have the handle.

    I thought at the beginning of the season that Vogrich showed some flashes of dribble drive but he has disappointed as well. Has Vogrich even made a shot this season?

  • Tomvoo

    I’ve been watching Vogrich during warm-ups the last couple games I’ve attended and I have yet to see him make a 3. Just something I noticed.

  • KainKitizen

    It was a fun game to watch. Novak had the best plays of the game. Could you just imagine if Zack was 6’7″. He’d be a monster. With the unexpected losses to Wisconsin and Purdue and what the team did with UConn, I don’t see why we couldn’t take both of them in the win column. It’s great to have watched a team effort with some excitement in the air. It’ll be very interesting to watch the rest of the season. Just get better and win and the end of the season will take care of itself. The selection committee puts a heavy weight on the end of the season then the beginning.

  • Paul

    Not that this means all that much, especially since it’s only mid-January (and besides – Pomeroy’s ratings are usually WAY different than the NCAA’s RPI) but…

    We are now #64:
    64 Michigan B10 10-7 .8399 107.7/73 93.2/62 21.0/176 -.066/287 .6715/22 103.7/35 97.4/27 .6289/80

    All those numbers mean SOMETHING, I’m sure – although I’m NOT exactly sure what!! Here is the URL for Kenpom:

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