Five Key Plays: Bryant


Discussing five key plays from Michigan’s 87-71 win over Bryant.

1) Evan Smotrycz’s hot shooting to start the game

Bryant came out of the gate hitting everything from deep, and in the early part of the game it was up to Michigan to keep up. Evan Smotrycz was a big reason why the Wolverines were able to keep up in the early going. The freshman tallied Michigan’s first six points on the two 3-pointers featured in the video above. The second triple is interesting because it highlights something Darius Morris was able to do all night against the 2-3 zone Bryant threw at Michigan all game: Darius was able to get into the lane with relative ease, draw a defender or two and find the open shooter on the perimeter. It was how Michigan ended up with so many open 3-pointers, and the Wolverines were able to knock them down. As John Beilein said after the game, the 2-3 was a good strategy if Michigan was missing shots, but they weren’t.

2) Jon Horford’s impressive defense and finishing

This was just a great sequence here early in the first half and one that points to Horford’s rapid progress the past few games. Horford only got 11 minutes against Bryant, and as Dylan said in his recap, it’s going to be tough to keep him off the court if he keeps producing like he has been. Here, we see Horford play some solid post defense and get down the court quickly. He and Darius then run a perfectly-executed pick-and-roll from the top of the key with Darius finding Horford at the right time and Horford finishing strong in the post for the and-1. Horford is playing the best out of the three bigs right now. Jordan Morgan continues to play well, but it seems like Horford gives the offense more options and he’s rebounding really well. Look for his minutes to go up as his production does the same.

3) Backdoor pass from Matt Vogrich to Smotrycz for a layup

This is a really nice play late in the first half by Smotrycz, who reads the screen perfectly. This was a great look from Vogrich, but Smotrycz made Matt’s job pretty easy. Evan faked to the perimeter and made a really good, hard backdoor cut to the basket to free himself from his defender. Jon Horford was involved as well, as his pick went toward selling Evan’s fake to the 3-point line. One of the most obvious improvement for all the bigs have been their ability to move without the ball. Morgan got a few good looks off a play that’s been featured quite a bit in Five Key Plays against Bryant and here Evan does a great job getting himself open with a hard backdoor cut. You have to cut like you mean it if you want to get open and Michigan’s big men are doing that.

4) Darius Morris acrobatic lay-in

There wasn’t much fundamentally sound about this play. In fact, Zack Novak was reasonably open in the corner. But this was a heck of a finish on the fast break by Darius late in the game. He has been great running the fast break recently and even though the Wolverines doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to run he certainly takes advantage whenever they do. Chalk this play up as one of many Darius Morris highlights from this game.

5) Darius Morris 3-pointer as the shot clock winds down

This is another instance of Darius just making a play when Michigan needs one. Darius really had a heck of a game, but this highlights what may have been most impressive about his day: 3-point shooting. Darius was 4-for-6 from beyond the arc and looked exceedingly confident shooting the ball from long range. He is undoubtedly the player Michigan goes to when the shot clock is running down. The Wolverines expect him to make plays in tough spots and he hasn’t disappointed. John Beilein was asked about Darius taking the place of Manny Harris as the guy on the team who can create his own shots, and Beilein referenced the work Darius has done with Lavall Jordan to improve in that area. What is impressive about this play, besides the shot, was how Darius was able to create the smallest space between he and his defender. That space made all the difference as Darius was able to get the shot off and watch it drop through the net. Darius on the shot:

I just looked up at the shot clock and realized we didn’t have a lot of time, so I put the shot up and it went in.

  • JimC

    5 key plays is a fav of mine!

    Question: about the set plays – how are they normally called? I don’t remember seeing Morris hold up 2 fingers (for example). They must all be numbered, because the road crowds are going to drown out JB.

    • Matt

      #3 being a set play is somewhat of a misnomer. All it really is is Evan reading Horford’s screen. He sees his defender is between Horford and the baseline, so he cuts back into open space towards the basket. If the defender is trailing Evan, he either has a jump shot at the elbow or can hit Horford rolling to the basket.

      • Matt

        Nice edit!

        I just noticed noticed another thing while going over the replay. When Stu first brings it up the court, Evan cuts hard to receive the pass, while his defender is right on him playing the passing lane. They reverse the ball and come back to it where Smotrycz makes the proper adjustment and cuts backdoor.

      • JimC

        Yeah, and #3, Horford doesn’t really set a “pick” either.
        But it’s fun to disect.

  • GrandChamp

    Purdue game is basically sold out already, only some nosebleed seats available on the ends of the court.

    • tin mad dog

      It’s about time!

      I do hope there are some seats available for the Kansas game, though. I’ll be back in Michigan.

  • Jay8

    Given what seems like a set rotation of 8 + limited time for McLimans, does it make sense to redshirt Colton? I’d think so, as it would provide a bit more class balance. Also, if McLimans doesn’t step things up he may not get a fifth year, especially given he already had a prep year.

    Colton was supposed to be really athletic and it looks like the injury has slowed him considerably. Maybe it’ll be a good thing to give him a year to get healthy and stronger and he can be a solid contributor next year.

    Very excited about how this young team is coming along. Next couple weeks are huge.

    • georgeesq.

      Christian cannot be redshirted. He has played. He would have to have a season-ending injury. If he has played in 7 games this season, even that would not be an option.

      • Jay8

        Oh, I thought he was still under the 20% rule and possibly eligible for the medical redshirt. If not, then hopefully he can be a spot contributor this year.

    • Mith

      I’ve given up on getting anything meaningful from Colton and Blake this year, but they still may improve and be contributors in the years to come. Fortunately the other other freshmen are really playing well.

  • Bluebufoon

    I do enjoy this segment after every game. One player who has really impressed me of late has been Matt Vogrich– who in the past, I’ve questioned his long term viability on this club. Although, Vogrich isn’t great off of the dribble but he’s always hustling, cuts to the basket and the pass he made in this game to Smotrycz going backdoor was excellent– Beilein couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

    I guess what is the most notable, is Vogrich is playing with confidence. He’s not afraid he’s going to screw up and he attacks when he’s on the court. Obviously the kid can shoot but his grasp of and improvement in Coach Beilein’s system has been fun to see.

  • Brian W
    • JimC

      thanks i was looking for that

  • Jessie

    utah just lost again in Hawaii. I was thinking that was going to be a solid win for us. Not looking good for boylan though.

  • JimC

    Predicted order of finish, in today’s Freep:
    1) OSU
    2) IL
    3) MN
    4) WI
    5) MSU
    6) PU
    7) Michigan
    8) NW
    9) IU
    10) IA
    11) PSU

    • Mith

      I think we’re probably still destined for 8th, but I am optimistic that we can continue to improve and maybe get into 6th or 7th.

      Minnesota at #3 seems too high to me. Despite MSU’s troubles, I’d probably swap them and MINNY.

    • Beast1530

      Minnesota is too high. Purdue is too low. I would put Minnesota at #6 then push Wisconsin to Purdue up one spot(then swap MSU and Purdue).

      Michigan could finish at 7th place but they only had one good win which is Clemson. The rest of the wins thus far, they should win.

  • Paul F.

    Jordan Dumars is ok’d to play against Purdue. Dylan what’s the chance we see him play? I read someplace that his whole family will be at the game.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Less than 5% chance I’d say. Don’t see him get any minutes unless it’s a blowout at the end.

    • Beast1530

      He’s not expected to contribute.

  • sullycu

    despite beating bryant we dropped from 50 to 60 in Kenpom because of oakland and utah most likely.

    • Beast1530

      And because of Bryant’s hot shooting night. Michigan’s defense ranking went from 17 to 39.

  • mac

    dylan- will dumars just be in in crap minutes the whole year or will he provide some gud minutes? And what is dumars’ potential to contribute in later years?

    • georgeesq.

      Don’t be fooled by the name. He may never crack the rotation at Michigan.