Game 5: Michigan vs. UTEP Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan had played surprisingly well in their first four games but they finally hit the wall. Playing in their second game in as many days, the Wolverines were beaten in almost every phase of the game. After the Syracuse loss I wrote that Michigan would probably have a handful of plays they wanted back, today they probably only have a handful of plays that they wanted to keep.

We knew this team was going to be inconsistent. We knew they were young and we knew they had were going to have problems scoring the ball. But this was the first time we were forced to see it with our own eyes. Michigan didn’t execute on either end and were painful to watch. It was UTEP’s 13-0 run, which coincided with Michigan’s 13 minute field goal drought, that ended Michigan’s chances.

UTEP played tight man-to-man defense, face guarding the wings and completely denying the ball, and completely shut down Michigan’s offense. Beilein’s offenses have typically fared reasonably well against some pressure defenses (UCLA and Minnesota come to mind) but today there were unable to get anything going on that end. Michigan continued to try to run their offense through the big man in the high post but UTEP refused to guard him.

The UTEP offense was powered by Julyan Stone, Randy Culpepper, and John Bohannon, the trio combined to shoot 19 of 26 from the field and score 44 points. Culpepper scored off screens, scored off turnovers, and just couldn’t be stopped. Perhaps the most painful part of Michigan’s defense was their inability to defend, seemingly routine, inbound plays. UTEP had at least 10 points that came off wide open looks from out of bounds plays.

Despite their lethargic play, Michigan was able to at least stay reasonably close because they won the turnover battle and got to the free throw line. They couldn’t get anything going on the offensive glass but did a great job on the defensive glass. The difference in the game was quite obvious for anyone that watched it, Michigan (35 eFG%) couldn’t shoot and UTEP (54 eFG%) could. UTEP did most of their scoring on the interior, scoring 42 points in the paint to Michigan’s 12.

There were several coaching decisions that are worth debating but two of them stood out. First, Michigan went with their small lineup often in the second half, even playing Smotrycz at the five for a stretch. Douglass (37), Novak (37), and Morris (35) all played major minutes, which I suspect is due to Michigan’s inability to get stops and cope with UTEP’s ball pressure. Second, Michigan went to a pressing and trapping defense in the middle of the second half. This created a faster tempo, 68 possessions, which seemed to lead to far more easy UTEP baskets than turnovers.

After watching a game like that, it’s tough to muster any positive thoughts. Michigan won’t have time to lick their wounds for long, they’ll head to South Carolina to face Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday.  Player bullets after the jump.

Player Bullets:

  • Darius Morris: Morris has developed an awful habit of dribbling the air out of the ball. He’s holding the ball for far too long and preventing Michigan from getting any ball movement on the offensive end. I don’t know if this is Darius’ problem or other people aren’t doing their jobs, but the offensive is definitively stagnating. He finished the game with 20 points on 8-11 (1-2 3pt) shooting, 7 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and three turnovers but a huge chunk of his production came when the game was out of hand.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Just 10 minutes for Smotrycz, who had 4 points on 1 of 4 (1-2 3pt) shooting. He got beat down the court in transition defense several times and that, coupled with early fouls, might be a big reason why he saw limited playing time.
  • Zack Novak: Novak had a bad shooting day (1-5) but he did get to the free throw line (7-8) and pulled down 5 rebounds. He did hit a big three in the second half but it obviously wasn’t enough.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan can do some things on the court, and he’s by far Michigan’s best big man but he picked up some foul trouble and finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass hit two threes but attempted seven and had three turnovers to no assists. Certainly not a performance to write home about, especially while playing 37 minutes. To his credit, I think Douglass did the best job defending Culpepper compared to Michigan’s other guards.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway had an awful tournament. He was visibly frustrated and could never snap out of his funk. Final stats for the weekend: 4 of 20 (1-13 3pt) shooting, 7 points per game, and 4 rebounds. Hardaway can play, but he’ll obviously have to regroup, back-to-back games in the same gym is probably the worst cure for a freshman that can’t find his game.
  • Matt Vogrich: He plays hard and makes some hustle plays but he’s still getting pushed around too often and was 0-3 from the field. With Hardaway struggling, Michigan didn’t have a lot of other options at the three.
  • Blake McLimans: It was almost comical watching McLimans miss those three point attempts, 0 for 4 on threes, as UTEP dared him to take them. McLimans has been touted as a three point threat but he’s now 0 for 9 on the season.
  • Jon Horford: Once McLimans went to the bench, Horford decided to attempt a pair of threes himself. He missed both, one of which resulted in a breakaway dunk for Randy Culpepper.
  • Colton Christian: Christian played in the first half when Smotrycz was sidelined with a pair of fouls but didn’t provide much production of note.
  • Merlin

    Dylan, you predicted we would not win a game in this trip and you were right. Many many disturbing things today but the worst thing of the whole trip is that we seemed to have no clue of what the offense was suppose to be. Morris after his great home games was a poor floor general and don’t feel Novak set much of a tone for the team. We needed Smotrycz today but I guess a message was being set. Hardaway needs to be a top scorer for us but with his dad watching he struggled mightily.

  • Tom

    That was painful to watch. Looked clueless on offense. The 3 wasn’t falling but we kept taking it. When we finally drove to the hoop we got fouled and actually looked like a fluid offense at times. Very frustrating game. I’ll be interested to see how the team regroups on Tuesday. The promise of the first 3 games seems to have gone.

    • JimC

      Totally agree. Shooting 30% overall from the field, and 17% from 3 will not get it done.

  • CJD

    Sounds like I did not miss anything of substance when I went out to dinner and missed some of the first half and all of the second. I will say it again; they have no chance of being much better than average with Morris at the point.

    I am sure he plays a mean game of 1 on 1; but running the point on a motion offense takes more than dribbling the ball until there are 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

    To be honest Douglas is not much different; other than he can hit an open 3.

    By the way is Jordan Dumars still on the roster; he was not dressed this weekend….

    • Jeff

      Dumars isn’t eligible to play until next semester.

    • maxwell’s demon

      Morris had an off night. He has looked good to great in the other games. Too early to say but it does seem like his shot has improved. Regardless, he’s the least of our concerns. The fact that we apparently still can’t do what the offense is predicated upon (shooting threes) is a little more disconcerting. The drop off from Morgan to the rest is pretty brutal as well. The green light for McLimans and Horford needs to go red ASAP.

      • CJD

        Demon; I am hoping you are right. I do not know if you were at the game or watches it on TV? But I was at the SU game Friday night; and I came away with yes they did not shoot well but IMO the bigger issue was that the offense was not run well producing the shots that coaches offense produced when he was at WV.

        Could it be the other young guys are not setting hard enough screens to get the pick and roll and back door looks? Possibly……. It comes down to this; my memory of coaches WV teams was that yes they shot well…. But they also had a diverse enough offense to make teams at least respect each players ability to get to the rim.

  • Loving the Blue

    JUst got back from the game. Like it has already been said with a young team there is a certain level of inconsistance that is to be expected.

    There are some things though that surprised me:

    – The defense on inbond plays was rather weak. My count was that it resulted in 4 wide open looks and 7 points.
    – McLimans still had the green light after his first 3 missed shots. Really all the big men did not look like they could hit anything.
    – The 1-3-1 was not used more. First half it was used twice late in the half and let to a poor shot and a turnover/fastbreak.

    I still love the young guys this team has, but it is a learning year

  • Tweeter

    I have gotten on Morris for overdribbling in past games, but today I really do not think it was his problem. He just had no one to give the ball to on the wings. At some point I was looking for an adjustment on the offensive end and I just did not see it. To UTEP’s credit they took away our ability to pass to the wing and that pretty much shut down the entire offense. Our wings have to do a better job of getting open, but at some point don’t you have to do something else once you realize that the players are not capable of getting open on their own? Against other teams that have pressured us in the past, they also guarded tighter on the five man which meant that backdoor cuts were open. UTEP didn’t do this, so that option was gone.

    I can only imagine how frustrated Morris must have been knowing that he is supposed to move the ball, but just can’t do it. There was one play that really stood out to me as something that we should have seen a lot more of but just didnt. Morgan got the usual pass at the top of key, saw he was not guarded, took two dribbles to the free throw line and made an easy jumper. I don’t know why our bigs did not do this every time until UTEP was forced to come out and guard them.

  • Bluebufoon

    After watching these two games I’m convinced Michigan needs to use the remaining scholarship this spring on the the best front-court player available. This roster needs more talent.

    Hopefully Sherron Dorsey-Walker pulls the trigger for Michigan because it sounds like the kid is the type of player Michigan needs.

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      How did this game make you want frontcourt players? Just curious, because by far the biggest problem I saw today was a lack of athleticism on the perimeter, which is why UTEP’s man-to-man gave us so much trouble. (That and the fact that we didn’t have legs, because it looked like we went all out against Syracuse.)

      In the grand scheme, this game means very little. We knew this team was going to have it’s ups and downs since we have so many young guys. Just enjoy the wins and look at the losses as learning experiences. Next year should be much better.

      I’ll say this; if I hear anyone call for Beilein’s head, or anything similar to some of the crap I read on twitter yesterday about these players, I’m no longer going to read comments on any Michigan sites. I know the outcry on basketball is going to be a lot less resounding, simply because a lot of Michigan fans don’t care near as much about basketball as they do football, but some of the stuff I read was ridiculous.

      A student at UM actually said if she saw any football players out, then she’d hit them with her car. Really? Yes, really. I love Michigan as much as anyone, but some people need to realize that their are other things to life than football/sports. What kind of person makes a comment like that, threatening 18-23 year old kids for a single game performance on a football field?

      I’m extremely frustrated right now, sorry for the rant. I’m looking forward to watching this team grow over the course of the season. Go Blue, always.

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      Ok, I just double-checked, and Sherron Dorsey-Walker is a 6’4″ wing. So, I’m guessing you meant the best back-court player available.

  • AG2

    Unlike a certain football coach whose defense keeps giving up big points on nights where Jim Harbaugh’s teams are notching shutouts, I am willing to give Beilein credit because he actually has gotten the job done before, and at Michigan. We have a young team with some talent, and some more talent signed for the next two years. If you told me Michigan would have a down year this year but we’d be a tournament team next year and a sweet sixteen team in 2012, I’d believe you because Beilein has showed me he can get the job done. Although he really does need to find another quality big man. Morgan is doing a good job but he can’t do it alone. McLiman’s shot clearly isn’t falling and Horford needs the Mike Tisdale/Michael Phelps diet.

    • So AG2, the problem is that Rodriguez HASN’T “done the job before”? Or that he’s doing it with UPPER-CLASSMEN and therefore has no excuse? I know this isn’t the place for a football discussion, but your logic eludes me. I like Beilein, and I like RichRod, but there has been a more clear-cut progression in the win column under RichRod than under Beilein.

      The limitations of this basketball team were on clear display last night. And I agree w. others here: the lack of athleticism on the wings is a serious problem, that and the other great mystery of the universe: yet another Beilein team that cannot buy a bucket.

      • P.S. I really do not like losing to Tim Floyd. And I think it’s dreadful that he is going to be allowed to don the mantle of Don Haskins on the road to rehabilitation of his image. How many lives is that crooked cat going to get? Are we up to nine?

    • Jeff

      I think you touched on one of the key differences between the two coaches: Beilein has actually accomplished something at UofM. The other is that it’s much, much, much easier to win in football than basketball at UofM.

      • AG2

        All I was trying to say is that Rodriguez has never won a big game and never fielded a competent defense. A fake punt to win a sugar bowl where they almost blew a big lead and a 13-9 loss at home to a 4-7 Pitt team with a national title bid on the line are the only things I really know Rodriguez for. Beilein, on the other hand, has taken every team he’s coached to the tournament, including ours. And at both major conference schools he made it to the second round or better every time.

        • CJD

          I like Beilein; but keep in mind he did not coach his recruits when he went to the tournament.

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  • wayman britt

    Well we now know how everybody is going to defend us. Leave the post open at the top of the key and front the wings.

    I’m really disappointed in McLimans so far. I thought long range shooting was his fortay. If he can start hitting the three on top it will open things up.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I’m sure you will see people try it but as the offense develops that will leave other teams vulnerable to the back door cut. It’s pretty clear that these kids just aren’t comfortable enough at this point to a) know when to cut and b) make the pass to the cutter.

      • georgeesq.

        I agree. This is the first time this team has confronted an overplaying man defense with quick athletes. This offense is not a well oiled machine yet. They are mastering the basics and don’t have the nuances and timing down yet. Syracuse was also the first really good zone team that they have faced. We are playing pretty good defense, which will keep us in games. We just need to make incremental improvements offensively over the course of the season.

  • Beast1530

    This is why losing out Prather and Pointer hurts Michigan. They would give Michigan a slasher who can get to the hoop.

  • Sid

    I’ve seen precious little of the backdoor cut to date under Beilein, even with more experienced players. I think it’s a trickier timing play to master than meets the eye and certainly not the panacea it’s sometimes made out to me. Which isn’t to say improvement won’t come in other areas.

  • Bluebufoon

    MaizeNBlueJ– Sherron Dorsey-Walker is in the Junior class 2012. Not sure yet who will surface yet for being a possible spring signee ?

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      I have no clue, but I was just pointing out that you talked about frontcourt players, and you meant backcourt.

  • Bluebufoon

    Michigan has added two guards for next year in Burke and Brundidge. If U-M signs another player for this class I would think a front-court player will be the priority.
    Dorsey-Walker again is a player Michigan is involved with for the following year when there is an additional scholarship available.

  • Section13Row15

    If you go back to a lot of the games where Michigan has had success under Beilein, they’ve usually taken around 15 -17 three pointers. When the attempts get higher than that, I think the Win % goes down significantly. Can you find any stats on this, Dylan? The players need to have better shot selection, and more importantly, when they’re wide open, they need to hit the shot. I’ve had season tickets for the last 7 years and I endorse the job Beilein is doing but one of the things I’ve been waiting for him to improve is our out of bounds plays near the basket. 95% of the time, we throw the ball back past half court whereas other coaches like Izzo will use it to get easy looks near the basket. This is a big disadvantage to have to set up your entire offense each time when you’re right near the basket to begin with. You’d figure we could at least get Vogrich an open 3 or something. Also, I don’t remember one backdoor cut working since 2 years ago when we made the tournament. Not sure why it’s not there, but it’s part of the offense that’s supposed to be there when the defense is playing tight to the perimeter.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Sorry guys, there won’t be a torrent of this game. I got the stream going, but forgot to start the recording on my PC at the same time, and didn’t set my DVR to record it.
    I’ve already got my DVR set to record both the Clemson and Harvard games, so look for links to those torrents in the game recaps.

    • georgeesq.

      That’s OK. I’m not sure that I want to see it, LOL.