Game 12: Bryant at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

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Video Interviews: Beilein / Morris, Hardaway & Novak / Highlights in sidebar

It’s only natural that Michigan’s worst defensive performance of the year comes just two days after I wrote an entire post devoted to improved perimeter defense. Tonight, Michigan’s defense looked like it had taken off early for Christmas break. Bryant started hot, connecting on three pointers all over the court, and Michigan was never able to slow them down. Luckily, Michigan shot the ball well enough that it didn’t really matter how bad their defense was. In many ways this game was the opposite of Michigan’s handful of ugly wins earlier this year where the defense was excellent and the offense never got going.

This was an example of what happens when two perimeter oriented teams collide and everything goes right. There were 114 shots attempted by both teams combined and over half of them (57) were three point attempts. While that stat is unusual, it’s even more bewildering that both teams made a higher percentage of their three point attempts than two point attempts. Michigan shot 50% outside and 46% inside while Bryant shot 52% outside and just 42% inside. Combine those unusual shooting metrics with little offensive rebounding and few turnovers on either end and you are left with a true perimeter oriented shoot out.

Michigan’s offense was more efficient than we’ve seen all season as they scored 87 points in just 62 possessions. That divides out to 1.43 points per possession, a plateau that Michigan has only topped twice under John Beilein (Oakland 08-09, Minnesota 09-10). Shooting 50% on 32 three point attempts is obviously impressive and was good enough to set the school record in made threes. The most impressive offensive statistic was that 21 of Michigan’s 28 field goals were assisted and the Wolverines turned it over just three times – that’s a 7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. So while Michigan took plenty of threes, the assist numbers give credence to the notion that Michigan did a better job of attacking Bryant’s 2-3 zone that we’ve seen.

Considering how well Michigan has played defensively this season, I think it’s fair to give them a mulligan for today’s subpar defensive performance. If Michigan comes out with that sort of defensive intensity, or lack thereof, on Tuesday you can expect Purdue to run them right out of the gym without breaking a sweat. Michigan will head home for Christmas but the team is due back in Ann Arbor by 10 p.m. on Christmas night to start preparations for the Big Ten opener versus Purdue on Tuesday. 

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Player Bullets:

  • Darius Morris: I was more surprised by Morris’ three point shooting – 4 of 6 – than his double digit assist performance. That’s probably because we’ve been spoiled as it was Morris’ fifth double digit assist game of the season. Morris finished the game with 26 points on 7 of 16 shooting (just 3 of 10 on 2pfga), 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. He’s obviously taken ownership of this team, more specifically the offense, and seems to improve with every game.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: He’s obviously extremely comfortable shooting the ball from deep whenever he’s got it, and his confidence doesn’t wane. He seems to be heating up, having made 10 of his last 26 (38.5%) from distance over the last four games after a 10 of 42 (24%) start. The more intricate parts of his game are a work in progress but he seems to be getting to the line more frequently of late, a sign that he’s looking to be more aggressive with his offensive game.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is going to get his 20 minutes and 7 shots per game, it’s on him to make the most of them – tonight he did. Evan finished with 14 points on 5 of 7 (4-6 3pt) shooting with 3 assists and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes. This was easily Smotrycz’ best performance since Clemson and it would be a good time to build on it heading into conference play.
  • Jordan Morgan: His offensive production has fallen a bit but he’s still giving Michigan good solid minutes. Morgan had 4 points on 1-2 shooting with 6 rebounds (3 off, 3 def) and a block in 27 minutes. He’s bobbled a few more passes in recent weeks which has cost him an open look or two per game, but he also just doesn’t have the ability to create his own offense.
  • Jon Horford: Horford impresses more and more with each game: 6 points on 3 of 3 shooting, 5 rebounds, and a block in 11 minutes. Horford provides so much energy, whether it’s blocking shots or making hustle plays, that it’s going to be tough to keep him off the court. He seems to be a better defensive rebounder than Morgan despite his slender frame. It’s tough not to be excited with his future.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich continues to provide a great spark off the bench, especially in the first half. He was 2 of 5 from three and also converted a great layup in transition during the first half. If I have one guy with a wide open look from three on this roster, Vogrich is one of the top two candidates.
  • Zack Novak: Novak was relatively invisible: 3 points on 1 of 3 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 37 minutes. Michigan didn’t really seem to need him offensively and it’s not like Michigan had problems on the defensive glass, so I’m not sure he had much of a negative effect either.
  • Stu Douglass: Similar to Novak, Douglass had a quiet night with 6 points on 2 of 6 (1-4 3pt) shooting. He did a nice job drawing a foul on a pump fake and seemed comfortable, if he hits one more three we are talking about what an efficient night he had.
  • Blake McLimans: He was the first big off the bench yet again but he looked weak on his one layup attempt and was pulled immediately, finishing with 1 minute of playing time.
  • mgocanada

    It’s reasonable to have concerns about the defence after a game like that one, but I’m encouraged by the overall offensive production and the fact that shots were falling. Darius’s stat line is that of a top-light PG, and I think he has fully replaced Manny Harris as our team’s bona fide Mr. Basketball. (I wouldn’t disapprove of some more dunks from him though). THJr, Horford, and Smotrycz are coming along great, too: didn’t we dodge a bullet by not redshirting Horford? I mean, without his ability to back up Morgan, his defensive skills, clutch plays and rebounding, we would be wallowing around the level of preseason expectations. The fact that Douglass and Novak can have a quiet night and yet we still rattle off almost 90 pts is VERY encouraging indeed. The only disappointment has been Blake McLimans, who performance has truly sucked this far, and not for lack of enthusiasm on his part; he clearly loves the game but he is way out of his league at this level. Yes, yes, I know he’s a (RS) freshman, but so are JoMo and JoHo, and they are both coming along just fine. I’m a big skeptic about Blake.

    • mgocanada

      BTW, ‘Twas probably mentioned in the game thread, but the way OSU whomped Oakland was scary. MSU hasn’t done anything to frighten us, but the Buckeyes are a different story. I think they’re better than Duke, with or without Kyrie Irving.

      • Tweeter

        Thats what Tim Doyle said, lol. But I may agree. I have watched four OSU games this year and to me, they are the most purpose talented team in the country. That means, that at each spot, they have the best talent, for the purpose that the player is being used for (not sure that made sense, but hope it did). Sullinger is the best player in the Big Ten, David Lighty may not be that far behind him and Diebler and Burford are two of the best shooters in the conference. Add to that several solid role players in Lauderdale, Craft and Thomas. They are scary good. But the one weakness I have seen is that they do tend to get lazy on D and play too much on the perimeter on offense. PErhaps Mich can keep them outside and get out to an early lead. You never know.

      • JimC

        Yup. I will NOT expect us to beat OSU. Any location.
        But it seems like we have a shot against anyone else at home, even Kansas*.

      • Beast1530

        Overall, Duke is better than OSU. OSU is close second though.

        Oakland isn’t as good as many people thought. They lost 3 of the last 4 games.

        • JimC

          Oakland is running the gauntlet, aren’t they?!

          • Beast1530

            They lost to Wright State and Valpo. Not exactly a good team. Just above average.

  • tim

    I think its unrealistic for blake to come off the bench first unless we are playing a team with multiple 6-10-7 footers. The layup he put up was the softest shot we’ve taken all season. I wonder if we will see colton christian during the b10 season.

    • JimC

      Blake was clearly frustrated with himself last night.

  • Tweeter

    I gotta disagree with you tonight Dylan on the performance of the D. While I will by no means say that this was close to the best performance, I do not think it was near the worst. I thought the intensity was just fine but the game plan was a little lacking. I think Beilein said as much in the post game. Bryant got some open looks but most of them came off of action that we have not seen a lot of this year. And when we did get good pressure, they made a lot of guarded shots. That happens from time to time and makes what would otherwise be a fine defensive performance look bad.

    Every game I get more and more excited about Horford. He seems to be getting closer to his brother Al in terms of play making ability each game. You could tell he had a great attitude and motor from his high school clips, but his ability to learn and grow is tremendous.

    I also have to give some props to Matt Vogrich. I was down on him earlier this year when it looked like he couldnt dribble and keep his eyes open at the same time, but the last few games he seems to have settled into a very nice niche. He is still pretty much a catch and shoot offensive player, but there is nothing wrong with that as long as he doesnt try to do too much. And he hasnt lately. Plus on the defensive side of things, he is playing much better.

    I am also starting to wonder if McLimans ability may be more suited for the four spot. I don’t know if he has the ball skills to play it, but he is such a liability at the five on the glass that I would rather see him get a chance teamed up with a Morgan or Horford.

    • Champswest

      I posted this same thought a week or so ago. My thinking is that we don’t have enough minutes at center for 3 guys. With Horford coming on strong he will make a great back up for Morgan and that frees up McLimans to back up Smotrecyz at the 4. That way, we can always have 2 guys on the floor who are 6’9” or taller. Plus, McLimans is suppose to have a good outside shot, so he may be very effective from the the 4.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Torrent is up at

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  • Kenny

    A nice change in last two games is Hardaway taking 3s from the top rather than the corners where he struggled.

  • YpsiTuckyBoy

    I was at the game last night, and was blown away by the shooting.

    However, I wish they’d give Morgan a few more touches in the post. Bryant was playing a zone and really packing it in tight (thus all the open 3-point looks). Michigan had the 1/2/3 guys on the perimeter swinging it around, and had the 4 (THJ/Smot/Horford) flashing to the middle to keep the D honest and prevent them from extending too much. Morgan, the 5, was essentially just hanging out on the low block not really doing much. THJ had a number of opportunities to dump it down to him, but didn’t. That was the only thing I wished they would’ve done differently. Come time for B10 play, they’re going to need to be able to work the ball inside when they need to slow down a run or get a good, high percentage look. To do that, you really need to persistently dump it down during other plays and have the wing develop a rapport with the big. I understand that’s not the best way to attack a zone since with a zone you risk the big being doubled down or trapped, but it’d be nice to just keep him happy when he’s working hard.

  • georgeesq.

    With Purdue, at least we know we’ll be facing man to man D. Will be key to handle on ball pressure and be able to run our motion.

  • Can’t wait til the Big Ten season. We all know OSU is loaded and should not lose that many games, but among the other teams who is for real and who is fake.

    Of all the Big Ten teams with 2 or so nonconference losses, which ones are going to fade in the conference? I can see the 2 – 9th place teams really beating each other up. Somebody is going to fall. I hope it’s not UM.

    I think on some nights we will need Blake, Colton and Matt to produce, they need to stay focused.

  • steve

    Dylan don’t forget about the 0 turnovers for morris which is always extremely important for a point guard. good shooting performance and just excited for Big Ten play

  • gordie bell

    Any insights on how intense practices are. With Stu, Vogrich, Horford and Mclimans running with the two’s, practices could be pretty spirited and it will only intensify when Burke and Brundidge are added into the mix next season.

  • Beast1530

    It’s possible that Michigan can start out 1-3 in the Big 10 play. They have a tough stretch coming up against Purdue, OSU, Kansas and Wisconsin. PSU should be a win for Michigan. If Michigan can pull an upset, they’re in solid position for a winning record.

  • Kenny

    OSU is definitely the better team now and likely to carry the conference, 2-6 is wide open but MSU may fall through the crack.