Game 20: Minnesota at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Different game, same story. This team’s inability to play defense in the Big Ten becomes more evident with every game. This time it was Minnesota that dismantled the Michigan defense with an overwhelming number of easy looks around the basket and offensive rebounds. Michigan appeared to have a chance to make the game interesting down the stretch but was unable to the two or three stops in a row necessary to have a chance.

Minnesota did the majority of its scoring around the paint and finished easily around the basket, with an effective field goal percentage of 68% – 67% on twos and 50% on threes. The majority of the Gophers’ looks were easy layups, dunks, or mid range jumpshots but Minnesota also hit some more difficult shots. Most notably, a pair of Rodney Williams threes in the second half. The same Rodney Williams that made 2 of his first 23 three point attempts this season. Only one Golden Gopher, Gerald Armelin, posted a field goal percentage under 50% for the game.

When Minnesota wasn’t hitting shots, they were pulling down their own misses. Despite missing only 15 shots for the game, the Gophers pulled down 11 offensive rebounds. Some were bad breaks but others were due to a sheer difference in athleticism and size. The most painful offensive rebounds were the three that Minnesota grabbed off of missed free throws. Turnovers kept Michigan in this one as the Gophers coughed it up on 29% of their possessions which resulted in 20 Michigan points.

A point per possession offensively used to be good in the Big Ten, but doesn’t seem as spectacular of late. Michigan scored 1.09 points per possession in this one with an effective field goal percentage of 55% – 67% on twos and 34% on threes. Despite Michigan’s painful scoring drought that spanned two halves and lasted almost eight minutes, those offensive numbers are above average and typically good enough to win. The Wolverines took a lot of threes as 66% of their field goal attempts were from behind the arc. Offensive rebounding was non-existent as Michigan rebounded just 10% of its misses. The Wolverines attempted just 9 free throws but stayed closed because they could limit turnovers, coughing it up on just 11% of their possessions.

Next up is a Thursday game at Michigan State. Michigan hasn’t won in East Lansing since 1997 and likely won’t break that streak on Thursday as the losing streak continues. The streak is now six games and Michigan will be facing a Michigan State team that desperately needs a win after a pair of losses.

Player Bullets:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: This was one of Hardaway’s best games of the season as he finished with 20 points on 6 of 14 (4-10 3pt) shooting with three rebounds and a steal in 40 minutes. It wasn’t mistake free basketball but Hardaway did a great job early on of attacking the basket including a an up and under layup and a pull up jumper on the baseline.
  • Darius Morris: Something just isn’t right with Darius and it hasn’t been for a while. The competition level has increased, which certainly plays a role in his struggles, but there’s something else that seems amiss. They say winning cures all evils but you can tell that Morris is dealing with some major frustration. D-Mo had 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting with 4 assists and 4 turnovers and most of that production came in the second half.
  • Zack Novak: Zack started the game hot but really cooled off as things finished 4 of 9 (3-7 3PT) from the field with three rebounds and two assists. The good news is that Zack continues to shoot extremely well in Big Ten play,
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass was abused by Hoffarber down the stretch as Hoffarber consistently got to the line or took Douglass off the dribble. Michigan did a great job of neutralizing Hoffarber earlier in the game but he scored some 9 points in the final 4:30 of game play.  That being said, Douglass had a solid offensive performance, 2 of 6 shooting (all threes) with 6 assists and zero turnovers.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Great, aggressive, start followed by missed jumpshot after missed jumpshot. Smotrycz finished with 5 points on 2 of 9 (1-7 3pt) shooting, one rebound, three steals, and one block. All of his production came in the first five minutes of the game before he picked up two fouls and never really got back in the swing of things.
  • Jordan Morgan: 8 points on 4 of 5 shooting with one assist, no rebounds, two turnovers, a block, and four fouls. Morgan didn’t get a lot of playing time because of the silly fouls but a five man not having a single defensive rebound is, less than ideal.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich hit one of two threes, grabbed a pair of rebounds, and handed out an assist but he was still abused on defense several times. This was one of the first times this season that Michigan played Vogrich at the two guard, as Hardaway played 40 minutes at the three.
  • Blake McLimans: A missed three, a missed layup, and zero rebounds in 3 minutes.
  • wayman britt

    Good analysis Dylan. Beilein should not be fired, but he seriously needs to evaluate his program at UM and make some hard decisions. Which I believe he is capable of doing because just look at what he did with the assistant coaches last year. Tremondous improvement.

    Questions for Beilein to Ponder:
    1. To win in the Big Ten you need defense. Does he have the height, strength and athleticism needed to be one of the top five teams?

    2. Will a perimeter offense with limited big man consistently year in and year out lead the Big Ten?

    3. Will Horford and Morgan as your only big men for the next 2-3 years lead you to be in the top four of the conference? (McLimans is not Big Ten material and Smot is not a power forward)

    4. With the quality of recruits looking at UM increasing, should he cut/churn one or two scholarship players on his roster, to bring in stronger, quicker athletes?

    • tin mad dog

      I’d say yes to #4. McLimans may be a scholarship player somewhere but not at a Big 10 school. I’m not sure about Colton Christian either.

      This was the first game I’ve been to in 4 years and it was very frustrating to watch. They seemed to have a fair amount of success when they attempted to get the ball inside off of the dribble or an entry pass but hardly ever looked to do so. Did Horford even get a touch when he was in the post?

      The most frustrating moment for me was after Morgan got his 4th foul and they brought Smotrycz in. There was a possession where they found Smot wide open in the paint and got the ball to him. If he’d turned toward the hoop, he had an open lay-up but instead he immediately kicked it to the corner for a 3. It was an open shot but all he had to do was turn for a lay-up and instead we bricked the open 3 and didn’t get the rebound.

      That was a very winnable game.

      I still really like Beilein but I am beginning to wonder if this style of basketball can/will ever win in the Big 10. Each of the last 3 years, I think his recruiting classes have gotten better but he’s yet to land that big fish.

      With two talented guards coming in next year, maybe at least we’ll get more dribble penetration and be able to get more easy baskets from Morgan and Horford?

      • Once again, we see Smotrycz having difficulty playing the 5. Beilein also took a major gamble in the 2nd half putting Smot at the 5 with 3 fouls. Why not put in Horford? WHY?!

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          Everyone wants to put Horford in but frankly he hasn’t produced. I, like everyone else, love his potential but when he’s in the game it isn’t like we are producing. Here are his plus/minus ratings in Big Ten games: -8,-9,-3,-5,-7,+8,-9. Obviously this is a small sample size, and most of these games have been losses which means lots of negative +/-, but he hasn’t been great on defensive rotations and has been brutal defending the screen and roll.

          If he was really going to answer all of Michigan’s problems inside, do you really think the coaches wouldn’t play him?

          • CJD

            I think most feel it is an investment that has to be made for the long term improvement of the team. We are not going anywhere anyway why not tinker with new ideas?

          • Dylan Burkhardt

            Problem is that Jordan Morgan needs a lot of work too.

          • CJD

            Agreed he does; but if another big is in the game they can rotate responsibilities and/or play a 2 – zone. If nothing else it could help improve our rebounding on both ends of the court.

          • GregGoBlue

            Do I recall correctly you saying yourself that +/- is a flawed metric? Just sayin…

            Yes, I understand the coaches are paid the big bucks for a reason. I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer for when Smotrycz or Morgan get into foul trouble, but I think some experimentation with the lineup is in order after we’re getting killed time and time again with that small lineup. Saw a little bit of that out of Beilein rotating in Colton Christian, McLimans and Vogrich. I do agree that Horford got absolutely embarrassed on his screen and roll D against Northwestern (or was it Indiana?). But sheeeeeesh.

            Young team, I know… Young team.

          • Dylan Burkhardt

            There are flaws with +/-, no doubt. But sometimes it’s a good way to see if someone is making a bigger difference in limited minutes because their stats are always going to be somewhat misleading.

            My point was that, recently, the team has rarely been sparked by Horford in the game. He’s looked pretty bad on defense and hasn’t done much on offense.

  • Colby

    Everyone mentions size as a big problem which it is but I want guys with high motors and athleticism. It is tough to watch us jack up three after three, get after it and draw a foul to the rim. Missing out on Dom Pointer really hurts us, we need a couple of guys who bring intensity to the game.

    Beilein needs to go outside of his recruiting box and get some recruits that he has not in the past. Was at the State vs Purdue game tonight and even though there were some threes shot but when a bucket was needed they took it to the hoop. We cannot shot that many threes

  • maxwell’s demon

    15 missed shots:11 offensive rebounds is insane! So is only having 13 rebounds as a team. Good lord did we need to land Amir Williams.

    • CJD

      The top two Centers in Michigan both signed with Ohio State; in addition one of the top Power Forwards also left the state.

      We can not expect to win a game where we are out rebounded by a 3 to 1 margin.

  • AC1997

    The defense is the big problem, but can somewhat be explained by the youth of the roster. Douglas and Novak are the only veterans and will never be superior defenders, so I’ll tolerate some amount of defensive struggle.

    What frustrates me is the offense right now. I understand the 3-point philosophy, but the offense worked early in the year when they were penetrating, kicking out, and finding Morgan open down low. Whenever MN went to a 2-3 zone the offense was brutal to watch. It looked like a Tommy Amaker special – pass around the perimeter for 30 seconds and throw up a three at the end of the clock. Awful.

    There was a stretch where MN hit back-to-back layups thanks to aggressive penetration and UM had Smotrycz throw up two threes that bricked, making him 1-for-7 on the night. That’s poor offensive design and execution, and far more frustrating to me than the defense in this game.

    • tin mad dog

      I agree.

  • AG2

    The problem, Colby with guys who have “high motor and athleticism” is they’re rarely good for anything else. I don’t think I ever saw Brent Petway make any shot closer than 4 feet. Not to mention these types of guys rarely ever make their free throws. Remember Isiah Sykes? He’s at UCF and he’s the worst ft shooter on the team.

  • Brian W

    Smotrycz’s missed three attempts in the second hit the front of the rim. Reminds me of Novak last year when he had “tired legs” at the end of last season and his shots were coming up short… I realize that Beilein likes to play small ball, but I wish that he’d play Horford more at the five and have Smotrycz play the four when Morgan comes out. I’m not expecting the team to make the tournament this year, so I’m looking at it as give Horford more experience going into next year since it doesn’t appear to be another big man coming in next year.

    • Brian W

      Looks like I left “half” out of “second half” in reference to Smotrycz’s missed threes.

    • CJD

      I hate the losses; but they would be far more tolerable if they played the bigs that are now sitting on the bench in hopes that they would improve. Both Horford and McLimans should be getting more minutes at the 5 and to be honest we should try a combo of 2 of our 3 bigs in the game at times against certain line ups.

      The season is what it is another in what is an ever increasing number of failed tourney bids; lets find out who can play and what combos will be affective in the future.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Playing two of the three bigs makes no sense when you consider their tendency to pick up fouls so quickly.

        • CJD

          Our opinion differs; one has been tried and failed the other has not.

          • Dylan Burkhardt

            Michigan can barely keep one on the floor when playing both of them, if they are both on the floor they’ll foul out even faster.

          • CJD

            So you are a fan of making no rotation changes and continue on with our current direction it appears.

  • Tom, Too.

    I agree…JB needs to go outside his comfort zone and get some big dumb dudes who like to ball….period. Dumb down his “system” and get three big giant oafs to go along with the guards coming in….add THJr to that mix and they might finish in the upper half of the conference at some point….

    Just seems like with this system everything needs to jive perfectly to get a w…

  • CJD

    It seems lately your D Mo comments are the same; his stats came either in the second half or when the outcome of the game had already been determined. Is it possible that what others and I said earlier in the season that he has serious flaws being a one handed player who often dribbles the air out of the ball?

    And that better talent and coaching in the Big Ten will expose that fact?

    • gpsimms

      You know when Isaiah Thomas first came to the NBA, he didn’t have much of a jumper. The pistons should really have traded that worthless guard.

      People never improve. Especially not people who have shown to be tremendously athletic and have taken huge steps forward between their first and second years.

      • CJD

        I was a season ticket holder for the Pistons through most of Thomas’ career and do not recall that sort of talk.

        I also do not recall that I saying he had not improved; just that his level of improvement will be determined when he faces tougher competition.

  • It looks like the consenus is to bring in more tall strong post players, but if Beilein does not adjust his current roster we only have one opening in 2012 to get a big.

    In 2011 we have two 6 footers coming who can dribble drive. Check.

    In 2012 we have Robinson who is more of a wing player. Check.

    Than one more opening in 2012? Without some changes/openings can we wait until 2012 and use 1 scholarship for a big poster player or 2013 to get our bigs?

    • CJD

      We keep stating the facts; but most here keep wanting to deflect blame away from the man in charge.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      You keep shorting us a scholarship. Michigan has two more to give between 11 and 12.

      I also think you will see Robinson play the four. He’s also the athlete that most of you guys have been clamoring over in this post.

      • CJD

        Dylan; thanks for the clarification on the the fact we have 2 more to gove between 11 and 12. That said any strong possibilities for a big man in 11? has zippo other than Eric Katenda; who is a very athletic kid but seems to have dropped off the map other than he is somewhere in Kansas playing now.

      • Brian W

        If Robinson can play the three and when needed play the four, that would be my choice. Small forward is the name of the position, but it’s not a requirement for the player to be 6-6. I realize times have changed from when U-M would roll out height like the 1989 team with Loy Vaught (6-9), Terry Mills (6-10), Eric Riley (7-0), Mark Hughes (6-8), Glen Rice (6-9), and Sean Higgins (6-9) or even the other teams in the 1990s when U-M had a 6-9 player at point guard. U-M isn’t going after the one and dones, but there is still an advantage to have taller players with skill at the three spot or even the guard spots. That’s outside of the big players at the power forward and center spots.

        • tin mad dog

          Glen Rice was listed at 6’7″ at Michigan.

          • Brian W

   had Glen listed at 6’8″, but I dug my 1989 championship program out of the closet to check. Glen was listed at 6’7″ in the program, so I stand corrected.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Let’s not just throw out transfer speculation without any backing. For now I think it’s this simple: It’s a tough time and kids get frustrated in tough times.

    Also, please try not to post the same thing in response to every comment. Your opinion can be understood from one comment and you don’t need to repeat it over and over throughout a thread.

    • Brick


      Maybe you can get an auto delete function for any posts that say a kid should be cut or forced out. Is it just Michigan fans that give up on kids so quick or does this happen at other schools?

      I don’t know if it’s is a message board issue or a cultural change but I don’t understand why every time we lose a game someone needs to start demanding a coaching change like it is some magic pill to make us a top 10 program.

      • CJD

        Lets not let the truth get in the way of fiction here; I highly doubt UM fans are over the top in regards to expectations. The facts (as far as I understand) are that all scholarships are a series one contracts that do not have to be automatically renewed.

        UM and Coach B have shown great integrity in honoring Ben Cronin’s scholarship after he suffered career ending injuries.

        And I for one have not called for his job; merely asking when is the appropriate time to consider a change? And also as mentioned in this very thread could we possibly be in a better situation if we had made a different hire.

        This site I thought was meant to create discussion good and bad not just for those that blindly drink the Maize and Blue Kool Aid and think they could do no wrong.

        • Jeff

          One thing I like about this forum is that there aren’t too many posts like this one.

          • gpsimms

            Well, there are now. CJD posts like 87237 times a day.

          • Then it would be like the message boards on MGoBlog… Though I do appreciate the occasional LOLCats as much as the next guy.

  • CJD

    I was just doing some research on; found a few interesting facts. many here say that Coach B needs more time to land recruits; but he does not compare favorably to Amaker in on that front early in their tenure (not later for that matter).

    Fact is Amaker’s 2nd recruiting class in 2002 had a 5 Star out of state player in Horton and two 4 Star players in Lester Abram and Chris Hunter. In his 3rd class in 2003 he landed 4 Star players Courtney Sims – Brent Petway – Dion Harris. He landed two more 4 Star players in 2005. In 2006 he landed another in Deshawn Sims and a little known player at the time (3 star at the time) Epke Udoh who was recently drafted in the NBA Lottery. His last class had two more 4 Star players in Manny Harris and Alex Legion.

    Facts are facts; Amaker did not deliver the wins we had hoped (but had a better winning % than Coach B) but he did delivery on recruits.

    • Well, I think it’s been pointed out that his win percentage matched or better Beilein’s. That still wouldn’t be a reason to throw the Beilein baby out with the bathwater but. . .

      (This may be one of those observations that gets repeated, but maybe to salutary effect.)

    • Sarah

      The fact that Amaker never took those highly touted recruits to the tournament proves why he is not our coach. And really Legion he turned out to be great…not.

  • CJD

    Doing additional research I cam across the following:

    According to’s Andy Katz, some of the names up for consideration to replace Amaker include Washington State’s Tony Bennett, Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery, former Golden State Warriors coach Mike Montgomery, UNLV’s Lon Kruger, West Virginia’s John Beilein, Xavier’s Sean Miller and Cal’s Ben Braun, as well as ESPN analysts Rick Majerus and Steve Lavin.

    Katz also reported that Kentucky coach Tubby Smith could be a candidate, if he’s available.

    Question is would we have been better off with any other candidates mentioned above?

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Torrent is up at

  • When I looked at the schedule before the season started I had a hard time seeing us getting past 15 wins, and I know there were other people who felt the same. I am getting old enough to know that during a down stretch like this a lot of people will call for the coach’s head. But everything from here on out–from Beilein’s perspective–is going to be geared to getting this young squad schooled to compete in future.

    There ARE legitimate questions about whether Beilein’s philosophy gets you a winner in the B10. The squad does need another “big fish” big (I believe Horford is gonna provide one, and that Morgan is going to be super-solid down the road). And I think Darius is, more than anything, frustrated with himself. He wanted to establish himself as the team’s leader and hasn’t quite done that. That’s okay, he’ll work hard this off-season two, and any challenge that the incoming guards provide will also make him better.

    We’re a season–probably two–from being able to say, legitimately, that Beilein isn’t working, though. Conversation about whether he stays or goes. . . not super-productive right now. I for one am super-weary of fans who flirt with firing the coach, as if they had some power to do so.

    Here’s hoping this squad can snag a few upsets down the stretch here, get through the season feeling hopeful about next year.

    • Don

      Beilein is selling these kids on more than “competing in the future” – did you watch the Journey today? After the NW loss, he got the team together and told them they were building towards making the NCAA tourney (eventually). For some of these guys, if they don’t make the tourney next year, then that’s an empty promise. Is Michigan going to make the NCAA tourney next year?

    • Trevor

      This is a very good comment. This season’s performance so far hews very closely to what most informed people were predicting back in October, and very few of these October predictions were accompanied by calls for a head coaching change. The only thing that’s really changed since then is the butt-hurt from losing a bunch of games; if you weren’t calling for a coaching change in October, there’s not much rational reason to be calling for one now.

      If there’s not a dramatic improvement by this time next year, though, the case might be much different…

  • Flintstone

    I think what is the most frustating is the # of possesions that we have without going inside the 3pt arc.

    • Brick

      What play do you think they should have run?

      Minnesota played a 2-3 zone and packed the lane with an NBA sized front line. We needed to hit the threes to break the zone and then maybe we could do something else. During the drought, we drove to the middle of the zone and when it collapsed, we kicked it out and missed a bunch of good looks.

      I can’t think of anything better we could have run on offense against that zone. We lost the game on the defensive end. Those Williams threes killed us at the end of the day.

      • Jeff

        Agree, if there was any game where the proper strategy was to keep shooting threes, it was that one.

      • Andy

        You have to attack the inside and soft spots of a 2-3 zone. Cycling the ball around the perimiter is not an effective offense. I know saying they just pass it around and chuck up a three is over simplifying, but that’s how it looks sometimes. Against a 2-3 zone you have to get some one in the middle (around the free throw line) and penetrate. The few times Douglass penetrated the zone, it got better shots (including a Morgan dunk). The frustrating thing about Morris was that he wasn’t effectively penetrating the zone.

        • tin mad dog

          Yes, it seemed like about 75% they didn’t attempt to get the ball inside via the dribble or pass. I noticed that they almost never set screens for anyone as well. I guess that’s by design but it didn’t make much sense to me.

          • Brick

            Never set screens? Are we watching the same games?

  • Sam

    Anyone that is calling for Beilein’s head right now needs to lock up their computer for the rest of the season and give him some time. We have the sixth (or close to it) youngest team in the country. We start three freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior. What do you not understand about experience breeding results? Beilein is signed through something like three more seasons, so you might as well support him while he’s here.

    • JB ….

      This is the truth. By just next year, we’ll be a much better team.

  • gpsimms

    Maybe we should have some coverage of the women’s team. they might be putting together an ncaa resume.

    • Brian W

      The women’s team did great today against Purdue. Sam Arnold hit some big shots, and they played really well on defense… Courtney Boylan has really picked up her game since Nya Jordan went out with the injury. Courtney hit some big threes today. The OSU game in Columbus on Thursday should be a good one.

  • AG2

    We have no seniors, there’s no reason to feel like the team shouldn’t be willing to accept that they’re building for next season.

  • Alex

    This season isn’t over yet either. Players need to remain engaged even if it seems like a lot of fans have lost hope over the last few games. Making the NIT this year would be a huge accomplishment and could build some positive momentum for next year.

  • billiam

    Interesting that a lot of fans set preseason expectations and then when they are met (FB going 7-5 in the reg season, BBall not doing well) they clamor to FIRE THE COACH!!!!ARGGG!!!!

    Let’s see what happens 2 years down the road when Belein has a 4* point guard senior, developed bigs (Morgan in his RS Jr. year, and Horford in his Jr year) and talented drivers (Brundidge as a soph, and the wing recruit freshmen).

    We all new this was a lost year, so why are we complaining now? If you wanted to complain, you should have done it when you made the predictions at the end of the season.

  • Beast1530

    One thing that Michigan really need is an athletic wing players in the mold of Manny Harris. They don’t have one on the roster. Tim Hardaway is a nice player but he’s not the type who will break down defender on a consistent basis. He’s a good all around player who can do a lot of things well but not great at one thing. A player like Casey Prather would really help on both sides.

    • Mattski

      Beast: he’s a FRESHMAN.

      • Beast1530

        Even if you’re a freshman, you either have the athletic ability to break down defender on a consistent basis. Manny Harris has shown the ability to do it even as a true freshman.

    • MikeM

      How could you not be extremely excited about THJ?

      • Beast1530

        I like Hardaway, but he is more of a #2 option than the #1 option that can demand the double team at all time IMO. He has nice skills and athleticism, but he doesn’t have that one thing that stands out as an elite skillset.