Michigan continues to push the limit of just how ugly a 20 point win can be. The Wolverines haven’t played many complete games this year and tonight was no different as Michigan crawled their way to just 23 first half points against North Carolina Central’s 2-3 zone. While the Wolverines looked hapless and befuddled versus the zone in the first half, the Eagles made the inexplicable choice to go away from the zone in the second half.
That decision cost them, as Michigan’s offense finally found a groove. The Wolverines scored just .87 points per possession in the first half with a dreadful effective field goal percentage of just 32% (13% 3pt). In the second half Michigan scored 1.41 points per trip with an effective field goal percentage of 64% (46% 3pt). The game was painfully slow, with just 55 possessions but ended up being one of Michigan’s best offensive performances of the season. Michigan finished the game at 1.14 points per possession, its third best offensive output of the season. That demonstrates two things: 1) Michigan’s offense was very good in the second half. 2) Michigan’s offense hasn’t been very good this season.
The shooting numbers were still subpar when all was said and done but Michigan’ cleaned up the offensive glass and didn’t turn the ball over. The offensive rebounding really kept Michigan afloat as Michigan scored 10 critical second half points. The Wolverine’s defensive rebounding could have been better but the difference in the game was that NCCU just could never seem to hit a shot. The Eagles finished the game with an effective field goal percentage of just 35%, their worst of the season. Central also managed to continuously shoot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over. Of the 13 Eagle turnovers, 12 were unforced as Michigan had just one steal.
Over the course of a thirty game season, off nights and performances like today’s first half are impossible to avoid. You’d much rather play a half like that against a team like North Carolina Central than a team like Oakland – or even worse on the road at the Breslin Center. Michigan can gain something from this game – especially with their zone offense – but at this point you take the win and move on.
That means it’s time to start talking about the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Oakland travels to Crisler Arena this Saturday on the heels of their biggest win in program history, on the road over 7th ranked Tennessee. The Grizzlies tout an NBA-caliber big man in Keith Benson that averages 18 points and 12 rebounds per contest. Benson has improved significantly since Michigan last faced him two years ago, which is scary for Michigan fans that remember him scoring 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting and 11 rebounds in that game.
No videos today but here’s a Horford video from the UM Basketball Facebook page and links to MGoBlue videos:
Beilein Presser Audio / Darius Morris Video / Evan Smotrycz Video
- Jon Horford: He’s skinny and undersized but he just keeps producing, 9 points (3-3 fg) and 9 rebounds (7 off.) in just 15 minutes tonight. Horford provides more energy and athleticism than McLimans and just seems to have a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He’ll only get better, especially when he gains more muscle this offseason.
- Darius Morris: He struggled against the 2-3 zone but when NCCU was in man-to-man defense he was the same Morris that we have become accustomed to: 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting with 3 assists and a steal. Michigan’s complete inability to make shots in the first half undoubtedly limited Morris’ assist numbers. Beyond the assists that we’ve harped on all season, Morris’ two point shooting has been phenomenal as he’s connected on 61% of his two point attempts this season despite taking a number of tough shots.
- Evan Smotrycz: His emotions still affect him a little too much but he hit some big shots tonight and finished with 10 points on 3 of 7 shooting with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 19 minutes. Smotrycz’ burst at the start of the second half really helped Michigan pull away and you had to like that he finally took it to the basket a few times and ended up with positive results.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Similar to Smotrycz, once Hardaway hits a three pointer his confidence level soars. After missing his first 6, he finally hit a trey late in the second half before following it up with another quick one. The instant offense is nice but the 0-6 beforehand isn’t. To his credit, Hardaway stuffed the statsheet with 4 assists and 4 rebounds to go along with his 11 points.
- Jordan Morgan: A bit limited statistically, at 4 points and 6 rebounds, but Morgan was stronger on the defensive glass than most nights. He has probably taken something like 10 charges this year but also has the propensity to pick up cheap fouls. He’s going to severely limit himself if he picks up two fouls in the first five minutes of a game like he did today.
- Zack Novak: After posting gaudy rebounding totals in the last couple games, Novak was a bit more limited today. He was more aggressive taking the ball to the hole, and hit a nice pull up jumper after a pump fake, which helped him total 9 points with 4 rebounds.
- Stu Douglass: After shooting right around 50% from three over the first 8 games of the year, Douglass has hit a cold patch, going 2 for his last 11. He did have a huge make in the first half when it seemed like Michigan would never make another basket but he was also 0 for 2 inside the arc. Douglass also seemed to look extremely uncomfortable handling the ball against the NCCU press.
- Matt Vogrich: When Vogrich is on the floor, Michigan is going to run plays to get him open three point looks. They managed to get him three good looks, but he missed all three. If he can continue to get good looks off set plays and connect around 38%, he’ll be a valuable asset backing up Hardaway.
- Blake McLimans: Clearly third in Michigan’s rotation at the five spot right now. McLimans came off the bench first but Horford outplayed him by a significant margin for the second straight game.