Five Key Plays: Penn State at Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Sorry they are a bit late. Both Joe and Josh were at the Gator Bowl which forces me to step in and write my first Five Key plays feature. Luckily there were plenty to choose from as Michigan made a number of clutch plays down the stretch. Matt Vogrich and Zack Novak star in four of the videos although Darius Morris assisted four of the seven made baskets featured scored a fifth.

Matt Vogrich three at 14:32 in the second half

This possession was so critical because of how bad Michigan’s previous several possessions had been: a careless Hardaway turnover, a bad shot from Darius Morris, another careless turnover from Evan Smotrycz, and a missed shot by Jordan Morgan. Michigan was coming out of a timeout and had failed to capitalize on five straight missed Penn State jumpshots. The Wolverines responded with a patient possession that was clearly designed to get Vogrich a quality look. Penn State defended the first option very well, as David Jackson fought through Morgan’s screen relatively easily, but the Nittany Lions were so worried about Morgan’s roll to the basket that they left Vogrich wide open on the pick and roll as his man ducked into the post to help cover Morgan rolling to the basket.

Zack Novak scores eight straight Michigan points

The first is a corner three where Morris’ penetration collapses the defense and leaves Novak inexplicably wide open. The second two baskets are even more impressive because they aren’t something that you see out of Novak every day. Novak was running the floor hard, harder than we’ve seen Michigan run this season, and instead of drifting out to the three point line he went all the way to the basket. Michigan’s guards, both Douglass and Morris, found him and rewarded him for his hustle. Picking up points like this in transition is a great way to get a little bit of confidence flowing and the pass from Darius on the final layup was just a beauty as he snapped it off 40 feet from the basket.

Darius Morris finishes with the foul

The leap in Morris’ confidence is evident when the opposing team doesn’t have a true shot blocking threat. You can see here that he knows there is no shot blocker in the lane and decides to attack the defender, puts his shoulder down and finishes with the contact. These are baskets that you need from your point guard and Morris continues to play the pick-and-roll very well. Morris still has to figure out when to do everything on his own and when to get others involved, but this is a prime example of creating your own offense efficiently at the right time.

Matt Vogrich pump fakes and drives the lane

We’ve all seen better pump fakes and the layup wasn’t necessarily graceful or aesthetically pleasing, but when all was said and done it might have been the most important Michigan basket of the game. Vogrich consistently took the ball to the rack in high school and while he has been limited at this level, this is an element of his game that will continue to develop over the next two and a half years. With his shooting ability and size, you can see how easy it is to make something happen with the simplest of pump fakes. Was it a charge? Maybe, but you have to be aggressive and force the officials to make that call.

Zack Novak hits a three to put Michigan ahead by four with 1:45 remaining

I’m not really sure why Billy Oliver is guarding Novak, presumably because Penn State wanted David Jackson defending the pick and roll, but it didn’t work. Novak recognizes that Oliver went under the subtle screen that Morgan sets and he simply fades to the three point line where he has a wide open three point look. If it doesn’t go in you might be wondering why Michigan takes a three with 25 seconds left on the shot clock up a point with under 2 minutes to play, but it was a wide open look and capped off Novak’s best offensive performance of the season.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Penn State torrent is up at

  • JimC

    Novak’s 3 at the end was the dagger. The team needs someone with ice-in-the-veins to seal a win…looks like Novak is the guy.

  • georgeesq.

    I’d add another key play. Smotrycz three at the beginning of the first half, which cut the lead to two. Had PSU scored first, we’d be down 7 or 8 points and be clawing our way back again.

    • georgeesq.

      I meant beginning of the second half, of course

  • steve

    also nice to see that we made all of our free throws… would have been a different game without that

  • Kenny

    Interesting that many if not majority on this aboard already gave up on Vogrich a month ago.

    • georgeesq.

      I didn’t. Before the season, I felt that he would be a factor this season. He played sparse minutes behind Manny last season. No way to judge him then.

      • ToBlav

        Yeah, now they have moved on to McLimans.

        • georgeesq.

          Yep. Too early to bale on him, too.

        • mgocanada

          A couple related questions for the UM Hoops family. I know that the reasonable answer to this first question is “we’ll see who develops the most in practice” but, based on past experiences with recruits of their rating/caliber, as well as the current roster, what is the likelihood that Burke and Brundidge start (or play major-role-player-ish minutes) their first season?

          Second, once Wiscy, Illinois, and Purdue graduate their senior stars, it looks as though — with these two Mr. Basketball contenders in the incoming class — we should be on the winning end of a revolution in the Big 10 power rankings. Is this the general view, or is the consensus that next season should still considered a rebuilding one?

          • mgocanada

            Sorry, my comment wasn’t meant as a “reply” as it bears no relation to the above comment. But there you go.

          • Deuce

            1. I don’t think either will see significant minutes next year. Morris will be very difficult to unseat and Novak should be on the floor somewhere. Even if Novak gets bumped around, Douglass will probably take most of those minutes. The following year they should make some noise when Douglass and Novak depart.

            2. M has a ways to go. The teams you mention are almost always contenders no matter what players they lose. I think M will struggle against other teams’ 3s and 4s, but if THJr and Metrics make major progress, and the others continue their development, M should be in the mix. The promising part is that M could (should?) be better the following year as 2nd year players Burke and Brundidge fill in for Novak and Douglass.

          • georgeesq.

            I think you’re getting ahead of yourself re: Brundidge and Burke. They may see court time, but I don’t see them overtaking Morris, Novak and Stu as freshmen.

          • JimC

            We’ll see who develops the most in practice.

            Never mind.

  • Brian W

    Indy Star updated its rankings for the top players in Indiana for 2013. Zak Irvin is at number 5…

    Bill Self talked about preparing to play UMKC and Michigan in the same week. UMKC’s coach comes from the Beilein coaching tree evidently…

    ESPN fired announcer Ron Franklin…

  • mgocanada

    Deuce, good analysis and your point about the B10 competition’s tendency to reload is well taken; I also think you’re quite right re: Darius Morris’ well-earned job security.

    But when you say, “The following year they should make some noise,” it appears you’re implying that Douglass and Novak’s minutes are guaranteed over CB due to their seniority alone, regardless of how the new guys perform in practice. This is a hypothetical point, since I have no idea whether Brundidge will be ready to contribute, but on other teams on-court performance is privileged over other considerations or personal commitments (see Fr Cory Joseph bumping Sr Dogus Balbay on Texas).

    • Kenny

      A good Beilein coached team will not dominant the big ten conference in regular season but can pull out small and big runs in post-seasons.

      With a year more experience and two new comers next year, they will have better chance against the teams your mentioned, and will win more than 9 games in the conference before make a little run in the NCAA tournament.

      One weakness of this year’s team is its heavy dependence on Morris, and this is what CB and Burke can help next year. THJ should also step up his game to handle the ball more. I can see CB play 20+ minutes at 2, Novak may end up play most of his minutes at 4.

    • Deuce

      I’m not implying that those minutes are guaranteed. I’m saying that I don’t think lightly used freshmen will be able to unseat M’s likely top two stat-sheet stuffers. I would be ecstatic if either is able to do so as that bodes very well for M, but I wouldn’t consider it probable.

      I understand your point about Cory Joseph, but Joseph was a consensus 5* who already played elite-level ball at Findlay Prep and could go to any school in the country. No one is confusing Brundidge for Joseph at this point.

  • mgocanada

    Indiana owning Minnesota in Minneapolis right now… I might have to eat my words about the Hoosiers.

    • georgeesq.

      Minnesota has issues. Joseph is transferring and Nolen is coming off an injury. They were not deep in the back court to begin with. Still, it’s surprising that IU is beating them at home.

  • MikeSal

    CB and Burke are surely going to take some of load away from Morris. From the tape I’ve seen (on this site and rivals) CB looks like a slasher and scorer which we need. The major point that was already mentioned, was when will they be ready to contribute. I am thinking earlier rather than later. The PSU game was a big win for us. We came back and played well in the second half. I had no idea we shot the ball so well in the second half. Our defense is what will have to carry us against UW tomorrow. I had the opportunity to watch their game against Illinois and I didn’t think they played all that well. That performance will definitely make them hungry come tomorrow night.

    On a lighter note, I have the best gf in the world and she got us tickets to the game so I will be in attendance cheering on the team GO BLUE!

  • wayman britt

    I admit I am one of those posters who was concerned about Vogrich’s game. He has been playing better and does have a nice role hitting important threes.

    I still worry a little bit on his foot speed and whether he will be able to get off his shot on tough defenses (i.e. Purdue, UW and MSU), but he has improved.

  • Bill

    Just saw 2012 Anton Wilson Flint Carman-Ainsworth playing Grand Blanc.
    Nice shooter good range hit 5 3pt 24 points. Good quickness drives well. If he keeps working on his game could be pretty good. Not sure big ten good but could do well in MAC.

  • steve

    iowa leads ohio st at half?!

    • AG2

      Indeed. Dylan, who is this Melsahn Besabe kid and how are he and Jerryd Cole dominating both Sullinger and Lauderdale?

    • Tweeter

      not gonna last. Iowa just played what will be their best half of basketball for the entire season. That said OSU continues to show that chink in the armour with their lazy D at times and hurried shots on O. When they play hard and execute, very few teams can compete.

  • steve

    close victory for ohio st on road… and iowa didn’t even shoot that well… maybe there is hope for a victory at home…