Five Key Plays: Oakland


We thought that we might not have the Five Key Plays after this one since it was broadcast on ESPN3 but video-guru Josh Houchin came through in the clutch and provided the video clips. They are in standard def for this one but that is certainly better than nothing at all. Without further ado, here are five key plays from Michigan’s 69-51 win over Oakland.

1) Double-teaming Keith Benson forcing turnovers

Michigan threw an array of different double team looks at Benson, but no matter what they tried, it always seemed to work. The Wolverines generally brought the double team from either the baseline or the top of the key, but here we have four different clips of different looks. There are a couple constants throughout. First, Michigan was physical with Benson and bumped him enough to make him uncomfortable and even force him to retaliate. This was crucial because the last thing Michigan wanted was to allow Benson to set himself, take his time and methodically go to work on the block. Sometimes Michigan would preemptively double Benson, having Novak cheat in so far on defense that he’d be covering him before the ball was even thrown to the post. Most times, the double would come immediately after Benson caught the ball. Benson was never comfortable passing out of the double team and eventually he knew the double team was coming which caused him to try to force things.

2) Michigan opens the second half with a 7-0 run, extending its lead to 15

The second half of the Oakland game started the exact same way as the second half against Utah: John Beilein ran the same play to get Jordan Morgan an open look underneath, it was just ran to the opposite side of the court. Once again, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zack Novak both set off-ball screens for Morgan, which frees the big man up to receive a nice pass from Evan Smotrycz, which Morgan converts. On the next play, it’s Smotrycz’s turn as he hits a deep 3-pointer with a man in his grill. On the last play of Michigan’s 7-0 run to start the half, Darius Morris deftly dribbles around the defense and pulls up for a shot at the free-throw line that rattles in. Michigan really found its groove offensively at that point and Oakland never recovered.

3) Tim Hardaway Jr.’s heats up quickly in the second half

After going the entire first half without scoring, and missing some wide-open looks from three along the way, Tim Hardaway Jr. found his way in the second half. The freshman kicked things off with a guarded 3-pointer from the corner around the 14-minute mark in the second half, and then converted a really nice and-1 about a minute later. Hardaway scored 10 points, all in the second half, and was a big reason the Wolverines were able to keep Oakland at bay in the second frame. The and-1 was one of Michigan’s most impressive plays of the night, coming off the fast break. Stu Douglass fought for the rebound then made a tremendous outlet pass to Darius Morris, who in turn made a great pass to Tim who finished with the contact. For now, Hardaway needs to work on his consistency, but it was good to see him get it going in the second half.

4) Zack Novak’s layup over Keith Benson

Zack didn’t have the best offensive day but one play stood out — with about 12:30 remaining in the game Novak takes the ball all the way to the basket and goes right at Keith Benson. As the season’s progressed, we’ve seen Darius Morris do more and more dribbling, kind of feeling his way inside the 3-point line, taking it back out, etc. As he does this, because of the scoring threat he presents, he’s able to draw defenders left and right, and that’s what he does here. As he takes the ball to around the free throw line, Will Hudson helps off his man, Novak. Darius gives Novak the ball at the top of the key and the junior sees nothing but open court in between him and the basket. Until, of course, Keith Benson comes to help. No problem for Novak, who simply elevates and puts in the layup right over Benson. Benson had swatted Novak earlier in the game, and Michigan looked noticeably intimidated around the hoop during the game, but in this case it was great to see Novak take the ball all the way to the hoop.

5) Darius Morris’ assist to Stu Douglass from half court

Thought we missed this one, didn’t you? Don’t worry we didn’t miss the one SportsCenter highlight-caliber play of the game. This was just an amazing play by Darius. To be able to see that play happening from where he was relative to where Stu was takes some incredible vision. Darius and Stu were the primary ballhandlers near the end of the game when Oakland instituted the press and subsequent trap once Michigan crossed half-court, and the two of them had little difficulty holding onto the ball. Here, Darius simply keeps the ball away from the defender and then whips a laser-accurate pass to Stu out of nowhere for the bucket.

  • georgeesq.

    Those double teams on Benson brought back some Courtney Sims memories – bad ones.

  • gpsimms

    missed most of the discussion this weekend, so, some thoughts:

    1.) It’s totally sour grapes, but I didn’t think Kearney looked that great. he looks solid, and has a nice looking j, but he’s a guy that needs to be set up. Now, saying that, he would fit in great on our team. Great for the 1-3-1, looks like he has potential to become a great shooter, etc. But Brundidge, even in his bad game, looks to be a game changer out there. He seems to have a little Mateen Cleaves/Demitri McCamey big bulldog guard that can score and set people up lots of ways. I am not discouraged by that video. I’d to have them both, but if only one, I’ll take Brundidge.

    2.) Great win against Oakland, etc etc. But I can’t believe no one is mentioning the way we struggled when oakland stepped up the pressure defensively. It reminded me of the UTEP game, (UTEP didn’t press, but they were very aggressive in man). I think we will really struggle to score points against the tough in your shirt defenses in the big ten (most of them). AND on the other side of that coin, we were unable to shoot syracuse out of a pretty passive zone. I think we’re going to see a lot of *really* ugly low scoring big ten games. I love our defense, and it’s going to have to save us more than a few times this year.

    3.) Also, he looked great against oakland, etc etc, and I’m so happy how far Darius has come…but did you see him go left, and then dribble a huge circle around the court to get back to his right side? and then do it again? it’s working now, but I would be shocked if big ten teams don’t “solve” the darius issue just a bit.

    Anyway, I am so happy that the team has done so well so far, but I’m still hoping for just 7-11 and NIT. It’ll be fun to watch us play Purdue, because they have always played the most clutch n grab in your shirt defense. If they totally shut us/Darius going right down, then I’ll continue thinking hpoefully 7-11. If we can actually score against purdue and even pull out a win…then let’s start talking big dance.

    • Merlin

      A bit too negative but I agree Big Ten teams are going to figure out a way to slow down Darius just like we slowed down Benson. This will be a real challenge for this team and I am hoping players like Stu can step up when this happens.

    • yaketyyakzacknovak

      I am not sure that there is a way to “solve” Darius with the way he is playing right now. He didn’t dribble around the court out of neccesity but because of his ability. Most players cannot dribble with that much control and defences will struggle to stop that. Now, I am not saying that teams won’t be able to slow him down or that he won’t have bad games, but I just do not think that his game can be “solved” so easily or at all, and that teams will struggle more against his ability then he against their defense.

    • Gus Johnson Pure

      I talked about your 2nd point re: offensive woes against pressure D, and I also worry about our ability to score against tough defenses. Oakland seemed to go on a run every time they turned up the pressure defensively, making me think the game woulda been a whole lot closer if they played that like for 40 minutes.

      On a bright note, I’m beginning to think Stu might be a good enough ball handler to be a reliable 2nd option to break traps/presses. A few games ago I thought his left-handed dribbling was not strong enough to break traps, and the very next game he was way better. I guess I spoke too soon. Point is, a full court press or 3/4 trap is ineffective, almost useless, against teams that have 2 great ball handlers. Maybe a DMo/Stu combo is our best hope to keep opponents in a half-court D and keep our offense in motion.

    • Gus Johnson Pure

      “I think we’re going to see a lot of *really* ugly low scoring big ten games. I love our defense, and it’s going to have to save us more than a few times this year.”

      I know it’s small sample size and all but, FWIW, we held Clemson to fewer points than did the #1 overall defense in the country*, Florida State. Maybe just maybe our defense will win us enough games to go dancing.

      *According to KenPom.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Oakland torrent is up at

    ESPN3 is a different beast, so let me know if you have issues, but I think I got it figured out pretty well. I was actually able to do it without re-encoding.

  • JimC

    Nice work Joe, and the assist to Josh – great feature!

  • Pingback: Rush The Court » Blog Archive » Around The Blogosphere: December 20, 2010()

  • Gus Johnson Pure

    My favorite play of the game was the Douglass to Morris to Hardaway Jr. for the and-1 (2nd play of the 3rd Key Play video). That’s the type of play that wins games. IIRC, we didn’t make too many of those kinds of aggressive outlet passes last season, instead opting to secure the defensive rebound, wait for the defense to get back and set up our half-court offense.