Game 9: Utah at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Photo Credit:

Post Game: Beilein Video / Horford, Morris & Hardaway Video

On Monday night we saw a Michigan team that lacked fired and looked like they’d rather be anywhere but Crisler Arena. Tonight, we saw a team that brought it all. They didn’t just play with energy and passion, they played smart on both ends of the court. In a game that Michigan led from wire to wire, and wasn’t as close as the score indicated, the Wolverines simply ran Utah out of the gym.

On an individual level there were positives across the board. Darius Morris was phenomenal and Tim Hardaway Jr. was explosive. Jon Horford played the game of his career and Jordan Morgan put forth another solid effort down low. Matt Vogrich even chipped in with arguably his best half of the year. But in this game it wasn’t about the individual performances, it was about how Michigan’s offense played together.

While Utah’s offense revolved around isolations and pick and rolls, Michigan looked to get out in transition, worked the basketball through their offense, and scored on a variety of easy looks. When you are looking at a box score you love to see stats like these: 22 points in the paint, 27 points off turnovers, 17 fast break points, and 17 bench points. The Wolverines took 37% of their shots from three point range, well under their season average, and connected on a respectable 36% of their long range attempts. All of these are signs that the offense is running smoothly.

Defensively, this was a tale of two halves. Michigan’s defense was phenomenal in the first as the Wolverines forced 14 turnovers and held the Utes to just .63 points per possession. In the second half, Michigan fell asleep on the defensive end as Utah scored at twice the rate they did in the first half, 1.27 points per trip. Most importantly, as I laid out in the preview, Michigan kept Utah off the free throw line, allowing just 13 Utah free throw attempts. Michigan also controlled the defensive glass, allowing the much taller Utah team to only rebound 29% of their missed shots.

Utah isn’t a great team but it was clear that Michigan prioritized this game – they spoke constantly of last year’s debacle and even wore the maize jerseys. Michigan realizes that they will win games with their defense this year and their first half intensity carried them until they were able to heat up on the offensive end.

Next week will follow a similar pattern as this one with a Tuesday game versus North Carolina Central followed by a tougher game versus Greg Kampe’s Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

Photo Credit:

Player Bullets:

  • Darius Morris: There’s just not much to say about Morris right now as the numbers speak for themselves. Tonight: 19 points on 7 of 13 (1-3 3pt) shooting, 10 assists, three rebounds, and one turnover. Morris is just playing tremendous basketball right now and he probably should have had a few more assists if his teammates had made a few more layups.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: You could tell that Hardaway was just as relieved to bust out of his slump as we were. Hardaway demonstrated the type of electric scorer he can be when he notched 8 points in just 90 seconds of game clock. Hardaway was as emotional as we’ve seen him and this game certainly has the potential to be the type that turns his confidence for the better.
  • Jon Horford: Horford did it all tonight. He had a big dunk, hit a three, had an assist on a backdoor cut, had a monster block, and pulled down 5 defensive rebounds in 16 minutes. At the very least, Horford made it clear why he needs to play, not redshirt, this season.
  • Jordan Morgan: I certainly didn’t expect this production for Morgan before the season but he keeps providing extremely solid minutes. 11 points (4-8 fg) and four rebounds (3 off.) with three steals. Morgan set the tone early by going right at 7-foot-3 David Foster and luring the big man into a pair of early offensive fouls – it was as physical as I’ve seen Morgan play and judging by this tweet from Bacari, I’d guess it was a coaching point this week in practice.
  • Zack Novak: Novak has been tenacious on the defensive glass, grabbing 8 defensive rebounds today. His offensive game was shaky, with a couple of bad shots that he shouldn’t have even considered taking, but it’s tough to complain with 11 points and 9 rebounds from your starting two guard – although he did play a number of minutes at the four today.
  • Matt Vogrich: Not only is he feeling it with the jumper – 5 of 6 from three over the last 3 games – he’s also starting to do a better job of using his length to make up for his lack of foot speed on defense. If Vogrich is hitting threes, there’s definitely a role for him off the bench.
  • Stu Douglass: With his season 3 point average over 50%, Douglass was due for a poor shooting night and he provided it tonight (0-4 3pt). Stu did stuff the statsheet in a couple other categories with 4 defensive rebounds, an assist, and a block in 19 minutes.
  • Evan Smotrycz: When you account for almost 40% of your teams turnovers in just 10 minutes, you know it’s not your night. Evan has scored just 2 points on 10% shooting over the last three games but these are the kind of slumps that freshmen have to work through. The pump fake is there, but Smotrycz needs to work on what to do when he gets in that intermediate range and the defensive slides.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans has fallen behind Horford a bit, but he has also shown signs of steady improvement. He had a perfect long outlet pass that led to Hardaway’s breakaway dunk, one of his two assists. Two blocks in six minutes isn’t bad either but he needs to be stronger on the defensive glass.
  • Eso Akunne: Picked up some playing time in the first half but came close to Club Trillion-esque production if it not for his one attempted field goal.
  • Colton Christian: Eso came close to posting a “trillion” but Christian succeeded: 3 minutes and no stats on the board.
  • Gary

    Very nice win tonight! I am so impressed with the way Morris has developed this season. I’m also impressed with the balance, and the fact that when someone is in a slump, someone else picks up their game.

    Maybe this team can change the perception that I keep reading on other web sites: Beilein can’t recruit (Morris is looking pretty good right now) and that his teams “live or die by the three” (this team thrives when it has balanced scoring).

  • Alex

    I cannot rave enough about this team. I did not get to see the Cuse game but I’ve seen most. As many people have said I think we will see some tough games a la UTEP but the team is giving it their all and that is so great to see. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season whatever happens.

  • TheYooper

    Whenever I make the trip to Crisler, Michigan seems to play their best basketball.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      We need to get you season tickets my man.

      • JimC


        • TheYooper

          I definitely would have season tickets if not for the 7 hour drive from The Yoop.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    How about that Michigan soccer team, scored a goal in just the 2nd minute in the College Cup. Should be a fun game on ESPN2 for you night owls.

  • Kenny

    If I still had some doubt about Morgan’s readiness for Big Ten action, they are completely gone after today’s game. The team played great defense, especially in zone. Darius plays like he will be first team all big ten, and an elite PG at college level. The transition offense is great, Beilein will definitely try to bring up the tempo against many big ten opponents. Horford shows a lot of promise, but he still need to add some muscle, is going to be a beast next season. Vogrich is proving himself to his doubters in last three games, will be solid off the bench and will only get better once he gains more confidence to finish off those bad door cuts.

    • ZRL

      After watching him so far, I think Morgan actually plays better against taller players because he can usually still outmuscle them. It’s the smaller agile players that he is going to have trouble with.

      Overall, great win. The only two games I haven’t watched so far are UTEP and Concordia. Maybe I should keep watching?

      • Kenny

        very good point about morgan. Horford might be a better match-up against smaller agile players, he doesn’t have a great body yet but he use it very wisely on defense. someone here mentioned first, his posture reminds Dennis Rodman.

  • Tweeter

    Its funny but walking out of Crisler tonight and talking about the game, Morris’ name didnt even really come up in terms of players that played well. He has been so unbelievably fantastic that I have already come to expect him to have these kinds of games every time out. His vision is obviously outstanding as he frequently sets up teammates for wide open shots, but the biggest improvement that I have seen is his body control with the ball. He is so good at playing at his pace and understanding when to push all the way to the rim and when to pull up for floaters or midrange shots. He must have worked his tail off this offseason.

    Horford was great and Beilein showed a lot of confidence in him when he left him out there to finish the game. He did take one questionable three early in the clock, but other than that he played really well. With him and Morgan, I am really not worried about getting a big in the next couple classes anymore. These guys are both going to be very good players.

    The other thing that has really stood out to me this year is that the team is running a lot of set plays that are working. The one from this game that jumps out is the play out of the half. It was a perfect setup to get Morgan an and-1 at the rim.

    I heard Beilein say on the radio before the game that the team would without a doubt be ready to play tonight. That was certainly the case. Hopefully, this team can find that intensity often the remainder of the year.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Will have some great Glenn Robinson III stuff tomorrow, video interview and scouting report.

    • MaizeNBlueJ

      Looking forward to it, Dylan.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Torrent is up at

    • sven

      I love you man!

    • Hey MaizeNBlue, how do I WATCH the torrent? I download (in Windows), then it asks for a program. . . Didn’t see any instructions at bigtentracker. Thanks for putting it up, btw.

  • Erik

    Hardaway reminds me of some of the long, athletic wings that MSU has had. Guys like Alan Anderson for example. Very good to have him, especially on the breaks with Morris (or tonight with that outlet pass from McLimans).

    I knew Morris would be good, but like Dylan said, I’m still amazed at Morgan. If Momma Morgan still visits here, I just want to say congrats and I know you are enjoying this as much as us!

    • JimC

      Re: Hardaway, Agree!, and what i noticed in person last night, that i didn’t really notice on TV, was how blazing fast this kid is. And the way he glides through a defense is sweet.

      • wayman britt

        Erik – I agree Morgan is playing great. I give him a lot of credit. After all his injuries I would have never expected him to play the way he has. We finally have a strength player in the paint.

  • CJD

    If………… this team stays together for the next 3 years we could be in for a treat. The only player (IMO) that has NBA player potential before graduation is THJ; his length and athletic ability are things you can not teach and he finally showed last night what we can expect in the coming years.

  • Looks like Beilein has up to nine players he can call on. And Akunne and Christian can, at least, give some people a blow without hurting the team? Does Dumars stand to contribute when he comes on board in a few weeks, anyone know? What would he bring to the table? And what’s up with Person?

    So delighted with Horford. He really brings enthusiasm to the floor, and always looks like he’s very well-schooled, especially on D.

    Between Europe and the early schedule, things have set up about as nicely as Beilein could hope.

  • Kool Breeze

    Nice game last night, I really like the why they play together. Morris is really improved and Horford is going to be tough as he gets stronger.

    Dylan, Evan has got to learn that he is going to have a hard time getting to the rack with his skill set (aka slow as molasses). He needs to pump fake and then pull up for the 12-15 footer rather then get to the rack to get a spalding burger.

    • Spalding burger, never heard that–good one.

  • smance

    Dylan, can you have Merritt reach over during the next game and tell Shep how to pronounce Smotrycz for us listeners :)

  • Beast1530

    If you want to see progress, check KenPom on Michigan. Michigan has improved their rankings and KenPom now project Michigan to win 16 games which would put them at .500 for the season. That may be good enough for the NIT which would be huge for Michigan this season.

  • John

    What is “Club Trillion?”

    • Bigfoot

      Blog by Mark Titus, former OSU Bartelstein.

    • Appears to be all zeroes on the stat sheet. 000,000,000 nine of them = trillion. First time I’ve heard it too.

      • the_white_tiger

        One guy recorded an 11 trillion once, 11 minutes and no stats. How that’s even possible is beyond me.

  • Evan

    13 of 16 from the line also helped in the game tonight. LAtely we’ve been shooting about 60% from the line.

  • MAS

    I am wondering if in the future Morgan and Horford will be on the floor at the same time. I think those 2 have the ability to play together after what I saw out of Horford yesterday.

    On Evan right now he is shell shocked and tentative out on the floor. Everytime he eve makes a small mistake he looks over at the bench expecting to be pulled from the game. In fairness to Smote, JB is putting him in a position to fail. He has looked really bad playing the 5 and JB keeps throwing him out there. He really should stick to the 4, because not only does he look more confortable he contributes more. he has a great hea fake but everytime he uses it he goes to the hole where bad things have been happening. He needs to fake and pull up fron 12 feet. I’m sure this is just growing pains of being a freshmen.

    As far as McClimans I thought he played well in his limited minutes.Just needs to be stronger on the point of attack on defense.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Down the line, as Horford’s perimeter skills develop, I think you could see Horford at the four. I don’t think he’s there yet, and maybe not even this season, but I think that could be a part of his development going forward.

      • georgeesq.

        I think that offensive flow would suffer too much with both in the line-up. Smotrycz is really the perfect 4 once he gets it going.

  • drae

    @Mattski, that is a question I’ve been asking all year… Will Dumars contribute or just be another guy chillin on the bench… Hopefully what everyone has said about(he’s slow, not good etc.) Is wrong, you gotta think Joe Dumars isn’t going to sit back and let his son muck up the Dumars name… I’m sure Joe has connection to different camps and trainers to help Jordan improve his game… guess we’ll see shortly…

    • Beast1530

      The think about Jordan Dumars is he’s not really a major D1 prospect coming out of DCC. He’s a solid player in HS but not great. I believe that none of the big time programs went after him.

  • drae

    Well hopefully he’ll be a diamond in the rough for Coach B and staff…

  • michigan4

    Great recap Dylan. I know I’m a homer, but the more I watch Darius Morris, the more he reminds me of Rajon Rondo.

    • Mith

      I love watching Darius play and can’t believe how improved he is. It cracks me up when people complain about him “dribbling” too much or “pounding the air out of the ball”. That’s like a guy scoring 50 points and then complaining that he shoots too much.

      • CJD

        Time will tell and I hope I am wrong; when they get into the meat of the season (Big Ten) we will have a more clear picture.

    • Beast1530

      Morris isn’t near the athlete that Rondo is. Rondo has ridiculous acceleration and quickness.

  • Roverback

    Pretty much everything has been said.

    Horford’s give and go play that got him open for the dunk had me cheering before he even got the ball.

    Douglass got the unfortunate assignment of guarding Jay Watkins on a few plays which gives some insight into Beilein’s defensive matchup mindset.

    And yet another game where the Wolverines did not allow the opponent to claw back and make it a tight one.

    Clyburn shot 44% but only took nine shots. Unless he was sick that seemed very odd.

    It was a very efficient and exciting offensive game plan by the team and coaching staff…and I thought they’d go for broke shooting threes, pfft.

    • Matt

      “Douglass got the unfortunate assignment of guarding Jay Watkins on a few plays which gives some insight into Beilein’s defensive matchup mindset.”

      What do you mean by this?

      • Jeff

        I assume it means that Beilein thinks Douglass is one of his best perimeter defenders, which I agree with. I sometimes see casual fans throw out that Douglass is not a good defender. I think he’s better than a lot of people realize.

        • CJD


  • Momma Morgan

    Erik and everyone- Thanks for the nice comments. We are very proud of Jordan and of how the team is doing. Very much looking forward to the rest of the season and the seasons to come! Go Blue!

    • Merlin

      for your son to play basketball like that and go to engineering school at the same time-what can you say-wow–you should be very proud.

  • Anthony

    This team still lacks some depth imo i really like the starting five their top 5 or 6 guys are playing good ball. I think the problem for this team will come in big ten play where the bench is key and you have to have guys that can give you minutes on both ends of the floor. Evan is struggling right now and i think he will be a good player, but i think to be the next level player that he can be he needs to be able to have a mid range game. I also like horford, but i dont like when he shoots 3’s that part of his game isnt developed.