Game 15: Michigan at Wisconsin Recap

Dylan Burkhardt


Watching Michigan play at the Kohl Center over the last four years has been a sometimes exciting but helplessly frustrating and empty experience. The early lead is surprising and slightly encouraging but the sense of impending second half doom is inescapable. Then it happens – almost like a car crash in slow motion. A couple big shots by a talented point guard and a couple frustrating fouls – the lead is gone. Then someone you have never heard of makes a handful of plays that put the game out of reach – last year it was Rob Wilson and this year it was Brett Valentyn. When all is said and done you leave the Kohl Center with the same thing as just about every other visiting team: a loss.

It’s never encouraging to see a team collapse down the stretch, especially for the second time in three games. However, it’s better to collapse versus good teams than bad teams. Wisconsin and Purdue qualify as good teams. Not many would have expected a team that started three freshmen in their first Big Ten road game to travel to Madison and pull the upset.

The difference in this game was Wisconsin’s three point shooting. The Badgers shot 47% from three point range on nineteen attempts, almost equal to their two point field goal percentage of 48%. It was Wisconsin’s third best three point shooting effort of the season and they just aren’t going to lose when they hit that many threes.

As you would expect in a battle of perimeter oriented teams, there weren’t many turnovers or offensive rebounds for either side. Wisconsin did have a slight advantage in each department – rebounding 22% of their misses and turning it over on 14% of their possessions — but neither factor made a huge difference in the game. Wisconsin’s 18-8 advantage at the free throw line did play a part, even if a handful of those came down the stretch with Michigan fouling intentionally.

The game was just 55 possessions long, the slowest that Michigan has played this year,  and when a game is that slow you just can’t throw away the number of possessions that Michigan did. I praised Michigan’s execution down the stretch versus Penn State but today they were manhandled after they cut the lead to 4 points with 8:21 remaining. From that point on, Wisconsin outscored them 18-6 to close the game.

Defensively, as we have repeated time and again this season, it was a tale of two halves for Michigan. The Wolverines held Wisconsin under a point per possession in the first half before giving up over 1.4 points per trip in the second. The Badgers connected on all cylinders in the second half and it didn’t matter what defense Michigan threw at them as they tried the man, 2-3, and 1-3-1 zones. The 1-3-1 zone appeared to show the most promise but Michigan was just a second late and almost certain steals ended up as easy layups or uncontested jumpshiots.

Michigan doesn’t have long to regroup as Kansas is coming to town on Sunday afternoon. Kansas is 14-0 and they are rolling right now with Josh Selby in the lineup. A win over Michigan would give them a perfect non-conference record and as far as I can tell they should be the Big 12 favorites.


Player Bullets:

  • Darius Morris: This was easily his worst game of the season. He ended up on the bench in the first half after picking up 2 early fouls and never really played well while he was in the game. He was 3 of 6 from the field but had 4 turnovers to 3 assists. Even more disappointing was how badly he struggled on the defensive end as he couldn’t stop Jordan Taylor. Taylor really seemed to get going after Morris made a couple of mental lapses early in the second half and then he took over from there.
  • Zack Novak: It’s encouraging that Novak had another hot shooting night — 5 of 8 (5-7 3pt) — and hopefully he can continue to build on it. Michigan didn’t have a lot of options offensively and Novak provided the scoring boost that they needed, he just didn’t get much help.
  • Stu Douglass: While he did a decent job of handling the ball with Morris on the bench (3 ast/1 to), Stu was awful shooting the ball – 1 of 7 (0-4 3pt) – and a majority of his attempts exhibited horrible shot selection. Stu attempted a rash of rushed and awkward three point attempts and I’m not sure he had his feet set properly on any of his shots tonight. I don’t know if he was trying to force things for one reason or another, but the end result was not pretty.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich came into the game during the second half and hit a couple of huge three pointers. Both were with a hand in his face and both were quick efficient releases. With Hardaway struggling in the second half, it was nice to see Vogrich provide a spark yet again.
  • Evan Smotrycz: He shows flashes and has proven that he’s an able three point shooter – 39% on threes for the season – but he needs to continue to influence the game in other ways. 2 rebounds and 0 assists in 30 minutes doesn’t quite quality in that regard, although he did come up with one of Michigan’s two offensive rebounds of the game on a nice scrappy play.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway started out hot as he found his way into the middle of the Wisconsin defense and got to the foul line a few times. He actually hit three of his first five shots before missing his final five shots of the game. Shot selection is an issue but so is consistency, which is hard to figure out. Hardaway’s jump shot looks effortless and consistent but he’s just not finding the mark.
  • Jordan Morgan: Jon Leuer was too much for Morgan to handle but I thought he provided a valiant effort defensively. On the offensive end, Morgan couldn’t get anything going around the paint and obviously struggled with Wisconsin’s size and strength inside.
  • Jon Horford: While Morgan looked overmatched, it was Jon Horford that looked out of place for the first time in a while. Horford just didn’t have the strength to fight down low against Wisconsin’s bigs – the most physical post players that Michigan has faced all year.
  • Birdmanjr

    Im glad to see the team fight hard on the road and play a very good Wisconsin team a lot better then the score would indicate. Any updates on Donnavon Kirk? I think its obvious the team could use another athletic presence inside.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Donnavan Kirk is down to Oakland, DePaul, and CMU. I don’t think he would have made a lot of sense for this team at this point.

  • michiganhoops4eva

    These are the games that as fans, we can expect to lose. The key for Michigan is to beat the lower-tier big ten teams (Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa) and get a few upset home wins…

  • JB

    I allowed myself to get too hopeful after the strong first half and again when Vogrich’s 3 cut the Wisky lead to 4 pts in the 2nd half, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

    Nevertheless, reading through the player bullets I was encouraged by the youth of the team and the nature of the mistakes they’re making: shot selection, consistency, finding more ways to influence games, etc. These are correctable and the types of things that really separate upperclassmen from underclassmen. In 2 years when this core is juniors and seniors, rather than freshmen and sophomores, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.

    • MarcO

      UM is having trouble getting the big stop. For whatever reason, this team is getting it done for a decent %age of the shot clock but can’t finish it out. If you want to win on the road, you need to get big stops.

  • JimC

    The first half made it worth watching, but yeah that lead was a mirage.

  • “It’s never encouraging to see a team collapse down the stretch, especially for the second time in two games”

    Haha, I believe we had a game in between Purdue and Wisconsin where we didn’t collapse down the stretch, right?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Good catch… Hate the late tip offs and having to write post game recaps in the middle of the night.

      • JimC

        At least you HAVE a recap. MLive and the Freep have scant coverage.

  • oldblue

    I am worried about what seems to be significant friction between DM and JB. DM was pulled about 1 minute in last night. Is this something to worry about? What do your sources say?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Darius was pulled because he picked up a silly charging foul early on. Michigan was playing well while he wasn’t in the game and then the moment he got back in he picked up a silly foul and was relegated back to the bench. He only sat four minutes in the second half despite playing pretty poorly.

      I don’t think that it is fair to say “significant friction” at all.

    • Tweeter

      Why is it that anytime Beilein uses a quick hook, people react like he has some personal problem with the player. If you have not realized it by now, realize it now, Beilein expects certain things to be done a certain way, and when they are not, you are going to sit. It has nothing to do with an individual player and everything to do with teaching the players to play the right way.

      Beilein has pulled almost every player on the team out in quick fashion at one point or another this year. Its just the way he does things and it is not going to change.

      • gpsimms

        like the constant beilein and manny hate each other bs that was on mgoblog all the time. he still mentions it whenever he gets the chance. it drives me crazy.

        • Right. I don’t even think it’s fair to say that–over three seasons–Beilein is all the quick to pull the trigger on anyone. He’s a pretty even-tempered guy. We can see that Darius is prone to some frustration out there–perhaps augmented by the fact that he did so well early in the season. And if the team plays well once you do yank a guy you’re smart to let them roll. . .

          What I am seeing after last night is that having eight or nine puzzle pieces that can potentially contribute–a growing delight in the non-conference part of the sked–suddenly looks less wonderful now, when NONE of those guys is necessarily THE answer playing very good teams. Now you just find yourself wishing you had six or seven super-solid players. Almost nobody can be absolutely counted on to contribute, which isn’t Beilein’s fault but.

          One other observation: although Darius kind of lost it toward the end, I–for one–was encouraged by the way he blew past the taller, less mobile defender on the pick at the top of the key several times. On several plays he also drew defenders to him in very canny fashion to open up our other players for shots. He’s learning on the go, but that will serve down the road.

  • Jeff

    Couple of extreme negatives: only 2 offensive rebounds for the game. That is awful. Through three B10 games, they are giving up 45% on 3-pointers. Also awful. Part of that is hot shooting, but in both Purdue and Wisconsin games, they continued to leave wide open a white hot shooter–Smith and Taylor.

    This game should be a very good teaching tool for Beilein. Wisconsin is where we want to be in a year or two.

    • I agree re: the O rebounds. Sometimes I see it as an unconscious sign of defeatism: everybody’s already retreating up court. Also, the fact that several teams are shooting out the lights against us can’t just be because we’re Michigan, and doomed; the perimeter d needs work.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Offensive rebounds are obviously not stressed and that is by design. Wisconsin also doesn’t stress offensive rebounding (they had five and at least one was off an airball). The notion is obviously that it is more important to get back in transition defense than send everyone crashing the glass.

      • Would love to understand this better. I guess that as your penetration improves, your size, strength, and speed grow you are just more likely to pull those rebounds down or get put-backs. And you can only focus on so much in practice. Dunno if it’s just my orientation, though, but it’s eerie sometimes with everyone slouching back up the court even while the ball’s still going up, now one under, getting only one shot each time down. . . Isn’t two rebounds pretty striking?

        (You can tell I’m working at home today–third post this afternoon.)

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          It’s obviously very low… Michigan rebounded 9% of their missed shots and the season average in 29%. However, Wisconsin is a great defensive rebounding team and as I said, it’s just not an emphasis. You have to make an effort to crash the offensive glass, which leaves you more vulnerable to easy baskets the other direction.

          I was impressed with Michigan’s effort on the defensive glass as they rebounded around 80% of Wisconsin’s misses.

          • Junderground

            This is probably something we’ll all have to live with throughout Beilein’s tenure, though it’s frustrating. It’s similar to the concept of just shooting a lot of threes and hoping you hit a good percentage. Belein’s philosophy is centered around being completely one-dimensional and winning when it works and shrugging your shoulders when it doesn’t, which is perfectly personified by releasing to defense as soon as a shot goes up (and not recruiting anyone who could execute put-backs even if they did get an o rebound). He may have made a final 8 or two, but I’m pretty sure all elite programs field teams that can beat you in various ways.

          • Gary

            I don’t know why I can’t reply directly to Junderground’s comment below, but this kind of comment continues to be really annoying. “One-dimensional”, “just shooting a lot of threes and hoping you hit a good percentage”, etc. make me wonder if Junderground has actually watched much Michigan basketball or just reads about it on blogs less informed than this one. When this offense is really humming, it is with a combination of perimeter shooting, backdoor cuts, etc. Nothing one-dimensional about that. What does it take to get fans to stop repeating this nonsense?

          • Tweeter

            re: jundergound dont you just hate his fascination with the 1-3-1 as well. His continual refusal to try and play solid man defense just befuddles me. Ramble rumble rabble rabble . . .

          • Sam

            I hope you guys understand that Beilein doesn’t stress offensive rebounding to limit the number of fast breaks of the opponent. If you are keeping three or four guys back to try to grab a rebound and miss out (which you still will on over half of your misses), you are going to get run out of the gym by fast breaks, the easiest buckets an opponent can score. That’s all it is.

  • Tweeter

    It was what we should expect, but not hope for, from a very young team. A solid effort but just a lot of wasted possessions in the second half. Dylan is exactly right, when you play Wisky, especially at Wisky, you have to value every possession. Michigan did not do that and it cost them. The defense, though not great, was good enough to win in my opinion. The offense, however, just lacked any execution in the second half.

    As most young teams let happen, when the defense goes bad they let it carry over to the offensive end or vice versa. Last night it seemed like right when Wisconsin made their early second half run, Michigan started jacking up quick shots or forcing plays into the paint. Those were possesssions where we needed to work the clock and force Wisky to defend.

    The good news is that this team has shown that have the talent to be more than competitive its just a matter of gaining experience and executing.

  • JDiesel

    Thanks for the excellent game summary. This game seemed in many ways to mirror Purdue. Stretches of promise but undone by some poor defense (leaving open 3s) and some wasted possessions after getting the rare defensive stop. I was encouraged by the fact that the gap between us and Wisconsin did not seem huge, especially from a talent prospective, and feel optimistic that if we can keep the current group intact for another year or two and follow it with more solid recruiting classes we could be right where Wisconsin is now (i.e. the top tier of the B10).

  • JimC

    One more thing: is it me, or does it look like JB “never” complains about shaky calls? There were a few screwy calls (e.g. charge on THJr I think that could have been a no-call or block) last night again. Does JB always assume the ref is correct, or can he have his players’ back a little more? That’s my beef.

    • mgocanada

      I find JB is a very Confucian sort of coach, in that he exercises a firm hand over his players and yet is very deferential towards authorities greater than himself. Sometimes this is reassuring and sound, sometimes it can be rather frustrating, especially when you consider the successes of certain coaches, particularly in the south, who let their own kids get away with murder while blowing a gasket every time the ref calls a questionable foul.

      But whenever I’m a little frustrated with JB, I remind myself: “At least he’s not Frank Martin.” Success or no success, that guy is scary.

    • Tweeter

      JB certainly is not like Izzo or others that jump on officials every chance they get, but at the same time I have seen him lay into officials over calls. I think he tends to take the “you catch more bees with honey” approach which may or may not be right in the long wrong, probably depends on who the official is. I for one think you get far more calls by the way your team plays than by anything a coach says or does.

  • Jeff

    One thing that occurred to me even when Wisconsin was pulling away in the second half yesterday, was that two years from now we’re going to be a handful for teams like Wisconsin and the other good teams in the Big Ten. I think Morris wil be one of the top players in the Big Ten by then, Smotrycz will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defences and players like Morgan, Hardaway, Horford and Vogrich will be making more consistent and valuable contributions, not to mention what they’ll get from players like Brudidge who have yet to appear at UofM. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, and it sure will be nice to finally start winning games like these once in awhile.

  • drae

    Did Colton get in @ all last night?

    • ToBlav

      Colton played the last minute or so.

  • bird

    Twenty-four in a row from the stripe.

  • Adam

    I was impressed with Hardaway’s defense last night. I remember one play where he was guarding number 5 and cut him off several times in a row before forcing him to pass away.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I do think that Hardaway’s defense has been steadily improving. He’s got great length and should only continue to improve in this regard.

  • Dave

    I liked Michigan’s discipline and effort although they seemed to unravel a bit in garbage time. Unfortunately, winning on the road at Wisconsin is essentially impossible for an unranked team. Overall, Michigan played a good game but I was a little troubled by their inability to defend against Wisconsin’s big men.

    While I’m concerned about Morris’ less than stellar play, it is encouraging for Michigan to play so well without it’s best player.

    If they continue to play with similar discipline and effort, they may be able to pull off a couple upsets this year.

  • MikeM

    OK, i clearly didn’t realize how big Leuer was. He was a gigantic (ahem) matchup nightmare for this team. And Nankervil and Li’l Orphan Annie were too much for our 4s to match up with. This constantly strained our defense as guys were forced to cheat and sag into the lane to compensate. Our lacking perimeter D seemed to be a result of the mayhem caused by their big men more than any deficiency by Stu/THJ/Zack.
    This was one of those games where you wonder if Horford is really ready to contribute during a Big10 season. Considering our options (McLimans??), we’re basically stuck.

    That said, the team really scrapped to stay in this one as long as they did.

  • Alex

    Looking forward to playing them in Crisler. I did say this last year and it didn’t work but if there is some type of crowd support maybe it will make a difference. Like David Merritt says as long as they keep taking it game by game and look to improve we’ll be fine.

  • MikeSal

    The two things that I noticed at the game especially in the first half was our defensive intensity. I agree that THJ and Morgan played outstanding defense. Secondly, Leur is HUGE and was by far the best player on the court. His size and athleticism caused a lot of problems for us. It is clear we are laging as far as big go. Horford looked out of place last night. He wasn’t as aggressive as he normally is. It was also good to see Novak have another good game. I wouldn’t worry about any potential problems between Darius and JB. When I got home today I tuned on the Classic and watched the WVU vs G’town game from 03. JB was all over JD Collins in that game too. It’s just how he coaches. He expects certain things out of his PG and it was obvious Darius didn’t play well last night.

    One last note: As I was exiting the Kohl Center one UW fan stopped me and told me that he was impressed with the progress of JB’s team. And I quote, “You guys played better then we expected. Two years from now you guys will be a force” Really caught me by surprise…didn’t know if the guy was drunk or not but a compliment non the less.

  • Section13Row15

    What I liked: Hardaway actually took the ball to the rim in the first half and had some great success doing it.
    What I didn’t like: Hardaway went away from everything he did in the first half and started settling for jump shots when they weren’t there.

    My biggest frustration is that we still don’t have that guy who can get us a bucket when we need it. I like that our scoring is more balanced this year, but when the other team is in the middle of a run, there’s nowhere to turn for an easy basket. I guess Morris is that guy right now but I see him as more of a distributor than scorer and he seemed to be frustrated that we didn’t have another athlete on the team that he could get the ball to in a scoring position.

    • MikeM

      It looked like Morris was ignoring assist possibilities in the last 10 min, instead deciding to dribble off screens until he got a matchup he could drive on. Morgan numerous times peeled off a pick, streaked to the basket with his hands up, asking for the ball, only to be ignored while Morris went for his own.
      Very disappointing game by Morris, IMO.

    • CJD

      Just my take but it appears to me everyone at times just sort of falls asleep when D Mo dribbles the air out of the ball. From what I saw last night the ball movement and the offensive diversity was better when D Mo was on the bench last night.

  • Kuws

    Nice work as always Dylan, Long time reader, first time commenter here.
    Anyways I’m not particularly discouraged whatsoever by this game. Wisconsin came off a tough loss at Illinois where they shot 4-20 on 3’s in the second half and they knew this was a game they couldn’t drop with a trip to Breslin looming for them. I think sometimes credit needs to be given where it’s due (to the Badgers). They came out in the 2nd half and hit some huge shots (though the one by Valentyn was so ugly!) Jordan Taylor just made some great individual plays as Stu had a hand in his face on two and the other trey was off the dribble. l commend the effort by Beilein and the blue. Great to see Novak get his stroke back and let’s give kudos to the fact that UM was LEADING at the half with zero impact from its best offensive player. Optimistic for a couple hard fought games coming up, win or lose

    • Tweeter

      Welcome to the wonderful world of commenting Kuws, look forward to hearing more from you. While I agree that Wisky deserves the bulk of the credit as they just made plays and Michigan did not in the second half, I disagree on the Taylor point. His first two threes were made while Morris was guarding him. The first was just a pullup when Morris was too lazy to get out on him, the second was Morris’ fault for going under the screen. The third was solid defense for the most past as Stu did get a hand up, but anytime you let a good shooter get going with easy looks, its dangerous.

  • AG2

    The issue that occurs in every game vs. Wisconsin is that simply put, you can’t out-Wisconsin Wisconsin. The only team that managed that was Cornell last year and they shot like 70%. You just can’t let Wisconsin play their game. Last year @ Crisler, Michigan basically let Wisconsin pass the ball around until they got a wide open shot at the shot clock buzzer. That’s basically perfect Wisconsin basketball, and since Beilein’s teams try to be like Wisconsin, there isn’t much we can do to take them out of their game.

    • mgocanada

      What kills me is that you speak the truth. And yet, Wisconsin is a state that has half the population of Michigan; it is even colder there than in Michigan; and its depressing urban centre has nothing on Michigan’s depressing urban centre, either for basketball talent or for overall depressingness. Wisconsin’s coach is known for his ability to make no-names into solid basketball renaissance men, which is remarkable considering that, unlike our coach, he himself is a no-name who has only coached at smaller branches of the University of Wisconsin located even deeper in the cold Wisconsin wilderness. The only rationale for their superiority I can think of is that there is no Wisconsin State University to take 85% of the best players in Milwaukee and Green Bay, nor is there a Central Wisconsin University to take it’s own coach’s son away from Bo Ryan without warning.

      The moral of the story: If Izzo had left for the NBA, we would have won last night’s game. Another observation: in UM land, we talk about 6’5″ as “great length” whereas in Madison, apparently, you must be at least 6’6″ to ride. Weird.

      • Gary

        mgocanada – I like Wisconsin (the state, not the U), but I got a good laugh from your post.

      • Tweeter

        Uh, Madison is freakin awesome. I love Ann Arbor, grew up basically in Ann Arbor, but Madison is a terrific place. Yea its cold and all, but the city and campus are amazing so I can see why there is a draw there. I will say this though, Jordan Taylor must have been on some serious weight lifting supplements this offseason. That dude bulked up like no other.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Torrent is up at

  • Sam

    Donnavan Kirk to DePaul