Five Key Plays: Utah


Michigan made a lot of great plays in its 75-64 win over Utah, which made choosing five pivotal ones pretty tough. But here they are, Five Key Plays from the game in chronological order.

1) Jordan Morgan takes two offensive fouls early

Jordan Morgan continues to impress defensively in the post, especially when it comes to taking charges. The first of the two fouls was great timing on Morgan’s part — I guarantee this play comes from film study. Morgan waited for a shoulder dip from David Foster he knew was coming and took it. Tough, smart play by Morgan. The second play is a great illustration of how you can draw offensive fouls simply by being in the right spot and playing tough. Morgan was right where he needed to be to put himself in good position defensively, forcing Foster to (illegally) try to move him out of the way. Here’s what he had to say about the plays:

It’s just being smart, I guess. You have to anticipate what they’re going to do and just kind of use your head and outsmart them. He’s a bigger dude, obviously … so you got to try to outsmart him and outplay him.

Drawing these two fouls not only got the 7-3 Foster in early foul trouble, it made the Utes more hesitant to bring the ball inside. Not to mention these plays contributed significantly to Michigan being in the bonus at the 8-minute mark of the first half.

2) Jon Horford slams one home off the pick-and-roll

This was a great play by both Darius Morris and Horford. Horford got the attention for the dunk, and rightfully so, but Darius makes a a really nice play that he wouldn’t have made last year which just shows how far he’s come. What I really liked about this one is that the initial pick-and-roll wasn’t open so Jon and Darius both improvised. Jon went the other way with the pick and released real quickly to the hoop, which got him open enough for Darius to find him with a nice bounce pass. Obviously this play was a big momentum swing for the Wolverines as the crowd went absolutely nuts after the slam and didn’t let up the whole game. But I think the biggest impact from this play was the confidence boost it gave Horford as the game went on. He really took off after this play and had by far his best game to date. Side note: Horford, though he’s the smallest of the big men, sets the best picks. This wasn’t a great example, but tonight he set some really solid picks.

3) First play of the 2nd half results in an and-1 for Jordan Morgan

Credit Beilein on this one — this was a great set play coming out of halftime that worked to perfection. Darius brings the ball up the right side and Zack Novak starts the play in that corner with Evan Smotrycz on that side of the free throw line extended. Novak comes across the paint and sets a great pick on Morgan’s man. Darius gets the ball to Evan, who has rotated to the corner. Morgan, freed by Novak’s pick, does a great job of screening the help defender from the basket side and clearing space for himself to get the ball. Evan had an otherwise ho-hum night but makes a great pass on this play to Morgan, who finishes strong in the paint. This was a great way to start the 2nd half and honestly, Michigan needed all the points it could get in the second frame with Utah continuing to hit shots down the stretch. This is also a good example of how patient Michigan was on offense all game. This play took a little while to develop but everyone stuck with it and got to their spots.

4) Tim Hardaway Jr.’s eight straight points in the 2nd half

Tim Hardaway Jr. finally was able to get his offense going against Utah. He started the game off slowly with two fouls and four points at halftime, but really turned it on in the 2nd half and showed Michigan fans what he’s capable of. The run was touched off by that ridiculous dunk in the second half with Hardaway taking off from about the third hashmark to send it home. From there, Hardaway found the touch from deep, nailing two 3-pointers on back-to-back offensive possessions.  Hardaway on the 3-pointer from the corner with 11 minutes left in the 2nd half:

When D-Mo attacked (the basket), my guy, he helped off a little bit so I saw I had a little bit of room so I just … ignored the man and shot over him.

Hardaway’s dunk came when it was a 14-point game and by the time he sank the corner 3 it was a 17-point game and the crowd was jacked midway through the second half.

5) Zack Novak hits a 3-pointer near the top of the key

This play kind of fell apart, but it went a long way toward preserving the lead in the second half and, as John Beilein said after the game, keeping the Utes at bay long enough to win. Novak receives the ball in the corner from Stu Douglass. Novak drives to the lane and finds a cutting Darius, but Darius can’t hang onto the ball. As three defenders swarm Darius near the left block, he somehow finds Novak at the 3-point line. Novak is wide open with his man helping on Darius and drains the triple, making the Michigan lead 20 with a little over 10 minutes to go. Just seeing Zack drain one of these was nice after watching him air-mail an earlier attempt from deep and watching him struggle from beyond the arc this season. With all that he provides in other facets of the game (9 rebounds in this one), if he can knock down those open looks he can be a serious weapon on the offensive end as well.

  • If you squint at the schedule out of one eye you can sort of see this team getting to 16-17 wins and the NIT after all. A lot may depend on beating Oakland, and on playing some of the good teams tough at home in the early part of the B10 portion of the program, so that they have a little confidence out on the road. So far, they look scrappier, more resilient than last year; hope that holds up.

  • wayman britt

    Beating Oakland is going to be tough. Look how they did against OSU and Illinois. A major key will be how we play defense on Benson.

  • Gary

    Great feature!

    Did Morgan get a way with a foul himself just before Foster got the ball on the first of the two offensive foul plays? It looks like he gave Foster quite a push.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Oakland will be very tough. I actually previewed them for Basketball Prospectus and am a big fan of Kampe’s program. Michigan will have their hands full across the board. We’ll have plenty on the game this week including a Q&A with the great Oakland blog Grizzlies Gameplan. Worth a bookmark, RSS subscription, or read:

  • CB2009

    horford traveled on the dunk

    • maxwell’s demon

      Haha yeah, I didn’t want to be the buzz kill but a lot of shuffling going on there.

  • Kainkitizen

    I disagree with the travel by Jon Horford. He took a hop step to a two legged jump which is by rule ok to do. No traveling was involved. Sorry guys about the buzz kill.

    • MJA

      He definitely traveled…watch again. He took two step and then took a hop step. That’s 3 steps. If he took one and then the hop step, you’d be correct, it would only count as 2. He should’ve just took a power dribble and he would’ve been fine (well he still was fine because it wasn’t called, but it clearly should’ve been).

    • MJA

      Actually I just went back and watched…we both were wrong. He just flat out took 3 steps. He took one step and TRIED to take hop step, but his feet clearly hit at different times. If it would’ve been a true hop step and they hit at the same time, he would’ve been fine. But you can see it’s like 1…….2, 3 and up.

  • gpsimms

    I’m real pumped about this Oakland game. I wish they were playing right now, it’s a boring day for hoops it seems like.

  • AG2

    One step at a time. First we handle Oakland, then we can talk about Purdue and Penn State.

    That’s when things get interesting.

  • gordie bell

    Not this season and probably not next either, but at some point Horford is going to be able to play the 4 alongside Jordan Morgan or Blake Mclimans. If anyone should have redshirted this season it is Christian, he has talent, but he just doesn’t seem ready to compete at this level.

  • mgocanada

    The slams by Hardaway and Horford = deeply satisfying. Clutch three from Novak didn’t hurt either. At their best, this team is easily mid-Big Ten material, ahead of Northwestern and a Minny team that, I think, got lucky early. (We also have Tubby’s number for some inexplicable reason). At their worst, well, ask the University of Texas at El Paso. But I think Pomeroy’s dead wrong in projecting that we’ve already won our last road game this season, right?

    If only we could give McLimans a second redshirt.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      What road games do you see us winning beyond Iowa? Maybe Penn State?

      Also, Minnesota will be significantly better once Al Nolen returns to the roster, IMO. As it stands they are 9-1 with neutral wins over UNC and West Virginia.

      • mgocanada

        Not saying it won’t be tough, but considering that we go to Indiana and Northwestern after what is arguably the most brutal stretch of the season (UW, KU, OSU), I think the guys will be steeled and hungry enough for a win or two at that point. So, add those two. For me, the emergence of Morgan, the viability of Horford as a second big, and the Clemson win have all bolstered expectations for this team. The unproven “Clemson is actually bad” meme notwithstanding.

      • KRN

        I can see us winning at Indiana. That schedule of theirs has been ridiculously soft with them failing their only two tests so far this season. They just don’t seem that improved compared to last year.

      • ZRL

        Well I didn’t see us winning @ Clemson either, but we did. I watched part of Minny’s game this Saturday and they struggled going against a Beilein disciple. Maybe there’s a reason we’ve had Minny’s number the last 2 years. I’m not going to count any road games as “probable wins”, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t spring a few upsets and go 3-6 on the road.

  • Xerxes

    Seems like offensively Novak is struggling with his shot until a “big” down the stretch to preserve the lead and eventually the win. Great write-up, I enjoyed this a lot.

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  • Trevor

    “Jordan Morgan continues to impress defensively in the post…”

    Disclaimer: I’m very, very impressed with Morgan’s development, and I think his season thus far has been fantastic.

    Claim: The Harvard and Concordia games featured many things, but impressive post defense was not among them.

  • GregGoBlue

    I would think that Darius’s most outstanding stretch of the game–where he scored, stole the ball in transition, and scored again after a dizzying array of moves–would be included in these five key plays.

    Darius is playing at such a high level right now, it’s really fun to watch. FYI, UMHoops nation, DMo now leads the Big Ten in assists, and is third in the nation.

  • Joel

    Thanks for cutting the vids. That first charge was garbage I thought, but the 2nd one was definitely legit, the Utah guy just flat out plows into him. That Hardaway dunk was sick!! Great in, I think the Oakland game will tell us a lot.

  • Chris

    I would have liked to see Matt Vogrich’s two 3 pointers featured in the 5 key plays. He gave solid bench time and was instrumental in building a big lead early in the game. The other plays are great, I would just like to give credit to a kid who made the most of his minutes. I hope to see this Michigan team continue to grow, and be competitive in big ten play, which I believe they are very capable of doing.