Game 17: Ohio State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

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For the third time this season, Michigan was close enough to a signature win to taste it. For the third time the Wolverines just couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to win the game. This team is close and anyone with a pair of eyes and a high definition television can see that, but they aren’t there yet.

The first half was neck and neck as both teams played flawless offensive games. Despite just 26 possessions in the half, Ohio State led 35-34 at the intermission. Ohio State grabbed control of the game with a 12-0 run over five minutes in the middle of the second half.  During that Ohio State run, Michigan had eight consecutive empty possessions – three missed jump shots and five turnovers. With such a slow game, wasting eight possessions is basically throwing away 15% of your chances to score with bad shots or silly turnovers – certainly not a recipe for success.

Michigan was able to battle back into the game with a run of its own, trimming the Buckeye lead to a single possession down the stretch. With 22 seconds remaining a chance to cut the lead to one point, Zack Novak made two of three free throws and Michigan was unable to complete the comeback as Ohio State hit their free throws down the stretch.

The “young team” meme feels like it has been beaten to death, but at this point it’s simply reality. Ohio State was not only the more talented team, they were significantly more experienced. To Michigan’s credit, young teams are also supposed to crumble when the going gets tough. Despite falling behind by 12 points with 11 minutes to play, the Wolverines didn’t crumble, they battled back. That’s not to say Michigan hasn’t’ fallen apart this year, they have (Purdue, Wisconsin, etc.), but it was still impressive to see them battle back into a game versus a more talented team for the second straight outing.

With just 57 possessions, the game was played at Michigan’s preferred deliberate tempo. Unfortunately Michigan just couldn’t get enough stops on the defensive end. Ohio State shot the ball extremely well with an effective field goal percentage of 61% – 54% on twos and 50% on threes. Despite the Buckeyes grabbing some crucial offensive rebounds, Michigan was strong on the defensive glass again, rebounding 73% of Ohio State’s missed shots. The biggest different in the game was Ohio State’s lofty free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 60% thanks to 25 free throw attempts.

Michigan contained Jared Sullinger as well as any team has done all season. The talented big man finished with 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting, seven rebounds, and six turnovers. Michigan threw the kitchen sink at Sullinger and dared Ohio State’s supporting cast to make them pay, they did. In the first half it was Will Buford, who had 14 first half points, but David Lighty carried the torch in the second.

Despite a painful drought in the middle of the second half, Michigan played extremely well offensively. The Wolverines actually outshot the Buckeyes, with an eFG% of 64% – 59% on twos, 46% on threes. The problem for Michigan was that it just couldn’t get to the line with just 7 free throw attempts on the game. I’ve developed high standards in the turnover department over the past several years but I was disappointed by Michigan turning the ball over on 21% of its possessions. Most disheartening was the fact that a majority of the turnovers were unforced or due to bad decisions. As per usual, Michigan didn’t attack the offensive glass and rebounded just 17% of its misses. Under John Beilein, Michigan has only lost one Big Ten game in which it played this efficiently, 1.12 points per possession, or better on offense and that was versus Ohio State last year in the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan’s play over the last two weeks was slightly encouraging but the final record over that stretch was 1-4, which isn’t encouraging by any measure. Michigan has already dropped three Big Ten games, two at home, and that’s not a great start to conference play. The net three games (at Indiana, at Northwestern, and Minnesota) provide a different type of test as they are all winnable, per say, but will be very difficult.

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Player Bullets:

  • Darius Morris: Michigan needs Morris, badly. Michigan also can’t afford to have Morris throw away 5 or 6 possessions per game. His stat line was still strong: 18 points on 8 of 15 (0-3 3pt) shooting with 8 assists, five rebounds, and five turnovers. Morris is learning how to balance the line of “doing too much” and “not doing enough” and he’s going to have to learn while being thrown in the fire.
  • Zack Novak: Novak did just about everything within his power to keep Michigan in this game as he finished with 16 points on 5 of 7 (4-5 3pt) shooting, two steals, and two rebounds. He also took a pair of charges. Everyone is going to remember that he missed a free throw in the final minute that could have cut the game to 1 point but you can’t forget about the first 39 minutes of game.Novak has found an offensive groove over the last four games, averaging 15 points and six rebounds per game with an eFG% of 85%.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan’s habit of picking up ticky tack fouls is maddening and it was in full effect today. If my memory is correct, only one of Morgan’s fouls was on Sullinger, the rest were fighting for loose balls, being late for help defense, or something along those lines. Morgan finished with 0 points, two rebounds, two turnovers, a block, and a steal in 19 minutes. He was facing off versus a top 5 NBA Draft pick so he gets some benefit of the doubt but today was not a good day. When Morgan tries to make something happen with the ball in his hands, it typically doesn’t work out well.
  • Evan Smotrycz: This was one of Smotrycz’s best games of the season, I’ll credit his strong play to Zack Novak’s Boston accent in the BTN introductions. Smotrycz was feeling the jumpshot — 5 of 9 (4-6 3pt) – but he also rebounded the ball well – 6 rebounds – and battled admirably against Jared Sullinger.,
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: He still gets lost occasionally on defense but he played strong on the ball defense and continues to steadily improve on defense. Offensively he had 11 points on 4 of 8 (3-7 3pt) shooting. He shot the ball well but needs to continue to be more aggressive taking the ball the hole with just one two point attempt and zero free throws today
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass is lost offensively right now he finished with 2 points, 2 assists, and one turnover in 30 minutes. Stu shot Michigan to victory in a few games earlier this year but now you can tell that his recent struggles are affecting his confidence. Today, Douglass was barely looking for his shot until he airballed a late three ball.
  • Jon Horford: Horford only played 6 minutes, and he did come up with a nice three point play off of a pick and roll, but he just couldn’t handle Sullinger’s strength inside. I assume that Beilein’s decision to play Smotrycz at the five revolved around the fact that both big guys are going to get pushed around and Smotrycz is a more versatile offensive player
  • Matt Vogrich: Just six minutes for Vogrich and he missed both of his three point attempts.
  • Rb

    Is something going on with Morris? His body language has been very negative the last couple weeks. Also he is removing himself from the flow of the offense more often than earlier this year.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      There was the benching versus Purdue and then he got chewed out pretty good today and reacted a bit negatively.

      I don’t think there’s some serious issue but more a kid who’s just going through a bit of a tough time. He’s still just a sophomore and I think Beilein is setting high expectations for him. Hopefully he reacts positively going forward and continues to improve.

      • Beilein really let Morris have it when he jacked up a brick of a 3 with 30 seconds to go on the shot clock in the first half… then Morris did it again in the second half. Talk about frustrating.

    • UMHoops Fan

      He played 39 minutes and must’ve had an extremely high usage rate. He gets frustrated sometimes and shows it. Very passionate, wants to do a lot, wears emotions on his sleeve a little bit. People said similar stuff about Smote earlier this year. Just young guys learning to focus, control, but still play with passion.

  • gpsimms

    thanks for your work, as always. it’s nice how fast you get these recaps up.

    in the end, darius is still responsible for a huge chunk of our offense, and a few frustrating decisions per game aside, he is pretty efficient overall.

    his efficiency will go up when the players around him get better. novak/smot/hardaway were great shooting, but once hardaway/smot start learning to create a little, and darius doesn’t have to feed them scoring opportunities, then darius will make less terrible decisions and be less frustrated/

  • Kevine

    I actually didn’t mind how Morris handled himself. When questionable calls didn’t go his way, he often times just looked back at Beilein in silence as if to say “what can I do?”. Didn’t think he was that bad. Smot, on the other hand dropped one or two F bombs. I liked what Morris was doing when he frustrated Sullinger after that one play.

    On a side note, has a Beilein coached Michigan team ever lost while shooting that well from 3?

    • Matt

      Smote actually swore? Tougher than I thought!

    • grandchamp

      The guy sitting next to the Michigan bench had to cover his young daughters ears when Evan was over there. lol

  • lavell99

    I’ll say it: the officiating was disgraceful. I expect bad officiating in the Big Ten, but this crew reached a new low. That being said, our youth cost us this game tonight. Smot has got to learn how to roll after he sets a pick and Morgan, to your point, needs to be more controlled. I love this team though. No quit!

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      The call on Smotrycz at the end was just a joke. Ref looked like he realized it wasn’t a foul but didn’t know what to do after he blew his whistle.

      I’ll try to stay away from Gasaway’s four dullest topics ( and avoid commenting on the officials in actual posts :-) Tim Doyle also tends to make we want to break #2 as well.

    • Smotrycz needs a bit more practice playing the 5 if he is going to do it with such regularity as this. It’s clear that he’s much more polished as a 4, even though he’s gotten considerable PT at the 5 this season.

      When Morgan got in foul trouble in the second half, I was praying that Beilein would put in Horford. But instead Beilein went with 4 guards (twice I think) with Novak at the 4. Why do this when you have Horford on the roster with a team as big as OSU?

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        A couple things here..

        1) OSU plays four guards. Dallas Lauderdale played just 7 minutes, most of them backing up Sullinger at the four. Lighty vs. Novak is still a match up that Lighty generally wins but OSU is not like Kansas where they play a pair of 6-foot-9 guys at the same time.

        2) Horford got abused pretty badly defending Sullinger when he was in there. I think Beilein decided that either one of them would get pushed around and at the very least, Smotrycz provides a better match up on offense. Evan got a number of open looks and was shooting the ball well, he wasn’t too successful at it but he also pump faked and went around Sullinger a few times on the perimeter. Evan also had probably his best defensive rebounding game of the season.

    • MikeM

      There were two calls that made me scream at the TV (one being the call on Smot near the end).

      Great effort by Smot, I actually thought he did as good a job as we could’ve possibly hoped for when guarding Sullinger. Got an offensive foul call on him on a flop, didn’t give up any And-1s (i.e. effectively used his fouls), and even boxed out Sullinger properly a few times (no easy task).

      I thought Morgan got hosed on a couple of his fouls… He seems to be the scapegoat when refs decide to bail out an opponent in the paint. That said, refs won’t stop making occasional bail-out calls, so he needs to get a bit smarter so as to avoid these situations better.

  • MAS

    I agree about Morgan picking up cheap fouls but that first one was just a horrible call. I really liked the way he battles down low. Once the game slows down for him he will be able to contribute more on offense. Smote and Morgan both tend to rush when taking the ball to the hole which leads to TO.

  • JimC

    If you would have told me M would shoot 52% & eFG 64%, I would have thought this was a W.

    OK, now the 3 tough but expected losses are gone. The next 3 games are much more important – chances to get actual victories instead of moral ones.
    If this team is as good as we think/say they are, they will show up in Bloomington.

  • MikeSal

    We played well overall but as you said Dylan, the droughts do us in. I still don’t think we have a guy that we can depend on for a basket. It would be nice to have a big to throw it to on the block and let him either get to the line or take a high percentage shot. I always tell myself that one play does not determine the outcome of a game, and in this one there were a few plays that did us in. The blocking foul by Smot on Lighty was sketchy, Novak missing the free throw and then Smot not making the extra pass to Stu for an open corner three on a fast break really stand out in my mind.

    Novak had one of his best games overall. He could play on every team in DI. He does the little things like take charges, rebound and plays bigger then he is. Morris played a good game but this game would not have been as close without Novak. Personally, I liked the way Morris played last night. I like to see players show emotion it can really boost the energy level of his teammates. With that said, our next three games are very winnable, NU looked good last night but they won’t shoot that well every night. We have to end this losing skid Sat.

  • dwb

    Holy Crow! After being at the KSU and OSU games, i just gotta say: we’re getting some terrific basketball out of a team we expected to struggle and grow through the season. These kids are playing UP to the STIFF competition, and (if I can convey some tone of voice here), I’m not telling myself ‘well, wait until next year’, I’m saying, ‘wow, wait until next year!’ And we’ve got games to win still this year. HAIL!

  • Section13Row15

    I appreciate your optimism dwb. I’m in the same boat, but just hate coming up with the excuses to my co-workers the next morning after we lose (as many of us do). The calls don’t ever go our way, and like someone else said, we don’t have anyone that can get us an easy basket when we really need it. Hardaway and Morris need to adjust earlier in the game to pressure defense by taking the ball past their man and trying to draw some fouls. We usually figure it out by the 12 minute mark in the 2nd half, but by that time it’s too late.

    I really like this team and I’m excited for next year when we don’t lose anyone and gain a defensive stopper (with some obvious offensive game) in Trey Burke, and a guard that can get to the basket and score in Carlton Brundidge. Our athleticism right now really limits what Morris can do because I strongly feel that if we had a Petway or Pointer type of player right now, we’d be getting easier baskets, some alley oop dunks, and we’d be getting to the Foul line a little more, really rounding out our team. I feel like that’s the bulk of Morris’ frustration right now because there are times where Morris has the ball and no one’s moving (i.e., the five second call against him last night).

    • MAS

      Petway, really? The guy was clueless on offense unless he had a wide open dunk.

    • CJD

      In regards to the D Mo dribbling:

      – is it because the players are not moving?

      – or are the players not moving because he is dribbling too much?

      The classic chicken or the egg situation.

      I think THJ has the potential to do those back door cuts for alley oops; but he has to earn them by making more open 3’s.

  • I have been really disappointed by Stu’s game this year. With the exception of his raining 3’s against Harvard, I’d say that Stu has brought very little to this team when he’s in the game: he has a tendency to frequently the ball over since his handle isn’t the best, and he seems like he’s on another planet when rebounds are in his area. When contrasted with the game of his buddy, fellow Junior Indiana-native Zack Novak, the differences in hustle and desire are pretty stark.

    • gpsimms

      I think someone else already mentioned this, but Zack started the season shooting 29% and Stu started the season shooting 50%. Now Zack is the hot one. I imagine Stu will bounce back, and I also imagine that Zack won’t score anywhere near 16 ppg in the big ten.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      Stu had one TO in 30 mins last night. It’s actually Darius who was the TO problem. Stu also had 10 rbs against KU and is averaging 3, which isn’t bad for a guard.

    • Jeff

      Well, Douglass has made 38% of his threes on the year, which is quite good. He’s also an underrated defender and our number two ball handler. He’s not a PG but has to fill in there when Morris is out. The last three games have been a mighty struggle for him, but he’ll bounce back. He’s always been streaky.

  • Colby

    Any recruits at the game? Thanks

  • AG2

    I appreciate Stu’s contributions to the team, but sometimes when he drives baseline, I can’t help but wonder what it would look like with either Burke or Brundidge doing it instead.

    • maxwell’s demon

      I am amazed that Stu and Morris don’t turn it over more when they drive baseline jump and then in midair try and find someone open. It actually seems to work every time.

  • gpsimms

    oh, and as an aside: I am so stoked to see Barbasol commercials back on BTN!! I missed them during football season.

    “America, you’re lookin good, handsome free and tall.
    Close shave, America! Close shave, Barbasol!”

    And the dude comes home to his hot wife who has just made him pancakes and is waiting in the bedroom (so long as he shaves first). Make sure you look for the pancakes, as they make the commercial for me.

    Somewhere, there is a great write-up on the add at edsbs.

    • maxwell’s demon

      Oh man I love that ad. I also love the smirk/shrug he gives himself when he looks at himself in the mirror.

  • betheballdanny

    It’s tough to not walk away with any wins when the team played so well, but they are much farther along than I thought. I thought Michigan would get smoked in these last two games, and I told my wife as much when I watched them. “I’ll shovel the driveway when this one gets out of hand.” I’d rather be in the doghouse with a win, but I’m still pretty pleased with the team.

    I thought Smotrycz played a hell of a game. He’s looked lost on defense and I think it’s cost him playing time, but that has mainly been the case when he has to chanse someone around, through screens, etc. When he just had to front and shove, he was pretty solid, and I thought the flop he made on Sullinger showed the savvy of a veteran. I wonder if being moderately effective on the defensive end gave him more confidence on the offensive end?

  • Jeff

    It’s becoming obvious that the people who said wait until Beilein gets his players in, were correct. Although these close losses to top-5 teams guarantee them nothing in the future, it’s almost impossible not to be encouraged. One thing I’ve noticed in looking at the stats is that this team finally seems to have some players that can shoot the three, which is critical for his system. There are currently four players who average more than 2 attempts per game and are at 35% or higher. In Beilein’s previous years at UofM there was only one player who met that criteria–Grady in both 2008 and 2009. It should just get better as these players get more experience.

  • mgocanada

    Was very active commenting last night so I’ll just re-state the most notable thing I took from the game: Horford should get more minutes. You’re right that Smotrycz provides more offensively, but I don’t see why we can’t have Smotrycz play the vast majority of minutes at the four and have Morgan and Horford alternate at the 5 when Morgan gets in foul trouble. Horford is looking stronger physically by the game and Smotrycz gives McLimans a run for his money on who is a worse defender (that said, Smotrycz can hit the 3 like a Bo Ryan big, so I like him a lot). If we need to move Smotrycz to the 5 for his scoring ability, leaving a black hole at the 4 (does Novak STILL cover this??), then that proves we are lacking size and athleticism and need to temporarily adjust recruiting prirorities. I don’t care if the guy shoots like Shaq. If Izzo takes all the in-state muscle, look at Texas/Florida/California and just get a big, fast 6’8-9 dude, please.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Smotrycz could not guard Lighty or Buford very well and those are typically the guys your four man has to guard versus OSU.

      • mgocanada

        Point taken, but I think the reason JB goes with the small line has less to do with Smotrycz’s inability to defend an athletic wing and more to do with the fact that Smotrycz is nominally tall enough to play the five, so he can relieve Morgan, while scoring much better than Jon Horford. Only prob is that the opponent tends to go on big runs when we play that line, with the result that close games get out of hand. Whether or not Novak is better suited to guarding a OSU wing, I think the point that ES is not a five still stands. JB could still run a line with Novak at the 4 and Horford at the 5, but he seems disinclined to do so. I’d be willing to temporarily sacrifice Evan’s scoring ability to have the defensive boost we need with JMo is on the bench.

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          Plus/minus is a flawed tool but here is last night’s game:

          When Horford was in the lineup we gave up 12 points in 6 minutes. When Smotrycz was in we gave up 48 in 28 minutes. Evan had the best +/- and roland rating for the game and I just don’t think this observation holds true today.

          • gpsimms

            I think the main point kenpom was making as to whether or not the tool was flawed was as a predictor of future success, not necessarily that it was a bad indicator of who played poorly/well.

            Anyway, I think it was pretty clear that the advantages of smot at the 5 offensively outweighed the defensive disadvantage, since horford looked pretty overmatched anyway.

        • That’s what I was saying too!

  • On balance it is hard to fault these kids or their effort–everyone is exceeding expectations, excepting Stu. Still, last night frustrated me, and having my six-year-old daughter–who is becoming a huge fan–ask “Why does Michigan always lose in everything?” did not help. A dagger three-pointer from Stu could have help cinch a win.

    These guys have learned to work together well and fast. I am curious to see whether they hit a wall as the season wears on, or continue to grow. That goes for Morris in particular, who has the hard job of meshing his abilities and athleticism with a slower group of teammates and his own immaturity. Has anyone else sensed that both Jackson and Kellog, the last two games, have been lacking in their praise for him? I wonder what they see or do not see. . .

  • ChathaM

    As much fun/challenge as these past two games have been, the next two, IMO, will be a better indication of the progress being made. Getting motivated to play top 5 teams at home is easy (granted, actually playing against them isn’t so easy). But, going on the road to play two teams at around your level doesn’t create the same natural motivation. Will M be able to bring a consistent effort to IU and NU? Or, will there be an emotional letdown after this week? I’m cautiously optimistic that M will compete in both games, but I have to admit that letdowns of past years creep into my psyche.

    • um basketball fan

      I agree that the right mentality for these next games is going to be crucial. IU hasn’t won a Big Ten game yet– they will be out for blood. I know it is hard to gain confidence from L’s, but there is a lot that this team should be proud of and hopefully that will come with them on the road.

  • mgocanada

    Dunno if anyone’s mentioned it, but one thing I really liked about last night’s game was when Morgan took it hard to the hoop against Sullinger (even though he missed the basket). You could tell he was hungry to prove that he could be as tough as Sully if he tried — and he proved it to me, for that moment at least. Haven’t seen a Michigan guy play with that outward fire in a long time; wanted to see it more often from Sims. But yeah, ultimately you gotta finish.

  • CJD

    Your best recap of the year by far…