Game 21: Michigan at Michigan State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

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Post Game Videos: Beilein / Novak, Hardaway & Morris / Izzo

When I wrote the game preview last night I was convinced that it was most negative preview I’d written since starting the site in 2007. It’s not that blogging after losses is anything new. The team lost 22 games during Beilein’s first season and last year couldn’t have been much more deflating. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t muster a positive thought before this game.

In my interview with KJ, I laid out four things that had to happen for Michigan to win: Michigan State missing open shots, Michigan rebounding 70%+ of MSU’s misses, Michigan keeping MSU off the free throw line, and Michigan shooting 40%+ on threes. On one hand I look smart because Michigan managed to accomplish all four and actually won the game. On the other hand, I look a bit too cynical because I said I’d be “shocked” if two of the four actually happened.

Michigan fell behind 6-0 in the first two minutes and appeared to be headed down the same dark road that we’ve seen far too often over the past 13 years. But Michigan didn’t fold, instead battling their way back to a 20-16 lead with 10:28 to play. I was relieved that they were still in the game at the time and would have never guessed that Michigan would hold onto the lead for the final 30 minutes of the game. Michigan State took its best shot, eventually cutting the lead to two points with less than a minute remaining, but Michigan had just enough answers to escape East Lansing with a victory.

Michigan State’s defense is never going to give up easy points but Michigan was able to manufacture key baskets when necesary. The Wolverines didn’t shoot many free throws, pull down many offensive rebounds and even turned it over more often that you’d like to see but they shot the ball extremely well. Michigan posted an effective field goal percentage of 61% — 52% on twos and 48% on threes. Novak’s early three pointers spread the Michigan State defense and enabled Michigan’s counter moves on offense (backdoor cuts, etc.) to work more effectively which resulted in several easy baskets around the hoop.  If it wasn’t for horrendous free throw shooting, 5 of 12 (including 2 or 3 missed front ends), this would have been a fairly comfortable victory.

Michigan’s upperclassmen carried the offense. Morris, Novak, and Douglass combined to score 43 points with a 79% effective field goal percentage (9 of 14 on threes). Scoring measures like bench points and points in a paint are generally very telling and they prove a point today:

  • Bench Points: Michigan 11, Michigan State 2
  • Points in Paint: Michigan 18, Michigan State 20
  • 2nd Chance Points: Michigan 7, Michigan State 6

Defensively it all came down to rebounding. Michigan rebounded 75% of Michigan State’s missed shots. That is tied for the best defensive rebounding performance against the Spartans this season. Michigan held Michigan State to an eFG% of 49% – 55% on twos and 26% on threes. The Wolverines also did a relatively good job keeping Michigan State off the the free throw line as they posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 33%. Michigan State scored .93 points per possession and were the first team that Michigan held under 1.00 PPP in conference play.

Kalin Lucas (27 points on 18 shots), Durrell Summers (13 points on 9 shots), and Draymond Green (9 point on 8 shots, 5 assists) were effective but the rest of Michigan State’s roster simply couldn’t produce. Michigan State’s post players (classifying Green as more of a hybrid forward) – Roe, Nix, Sherman, and Payne – combined to score 1 point total.

No one is going to deny that Michigan State is struggling this year but that shouldn’t take away from this win. A Michigan team on a six game losing streak that starts three freshmen just beat a Michigan State team, ranked #2 in preseason polls, that features four starters who have been to back-to-back Final Fours – on the road.

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I’ve sat in section 218 at the very top of the Breslin Center with the 20-30 other loyal Maize Ragers that consistently made the trip. It was a painful but worthwhile experience because we all knew that, eventually, this day had to come. I wasn’t there tonight but I can only imagine the feeling – enjoy it guys.

Player Bullets

  • Zack Novak: 19 points on 6 of 9 (6-8 3pt) shooting with 6 defensive rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a turnover. Novak left everything on the floor and despite being the fiery emotional leader that Michigan needed, he was calm enough to hit big shot after big shot from three point range. Novak is shooting 53% (24/45) on threes and averaging 12 points per game in Big Ten play.
  • Darius Morris: 40 minutes, 17 points on 7 of 10 (2-2 3pt!) shooting, 8 assists, four rebounds, four turnovers, and two steals. It wasn’t always visually appealing but Morris made some clutch shots and carried the Michigan offense, especially when things broke down late in the shotclock. Yes he made some mistakes but when you give a guy the ball for 40 minutes and tell him to bring you home, that’s going to happen. At the end of the day, Morris got it done.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass hit two big time shots down the stretch (maybe his biggest since UCLA?). First a step back jumper over Kalin Lucas in the lane to put Michigan up 7 with four minutes remaining and then a three to put Michigan up 5 with :22 seconds to play. He had finished with just 7 points but those shots were clutch.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway had an awful shooting game, 3 of 12 (1-4 3pt), but he pulled down eight rebounds and picked up a pair of steals. The missed free throws (3-6) were frustrating but Hardaway played hard and aggressive offensively and his rebounding was a game changer.
  • Jordan Morgan: He wasn’t great but he didn’t back down against Michigan State’s physical play: 24 minutes, 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting with just one rebound and three turnovers. Morgan battled Michigan State’s bigs inside even if the final numbers don’t prove it. His biggest play of the game might have been when he blatantly went over the back of a Michigan State defender to tip an offensive rebound out to a guard. It probably should have been a foul but it was the kind of play that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Michigan State make.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz wasn’t hitting his jumper (0-3) but did grab three rebounds in 18 minutes. He obviously wasn’t the best athlete on the floor but he managed to give Michigan “neutral” minutes, which were good enough.
  • Jon Horford: Horford gave Michigan some quality minutes at the five with 2 points and 2 defensive rebounds. It was clear that Michigan wanted Horford in the game when they went to the zone and he was active and aggressive, giving Michigan the spark it needed.
  • Colton Christian: The moment he hit the catch and shoot jumper as the shot clock expired was when the slightest inkling of hope entered my mind. Big time shot for a guy that was 1 of 10 on the year.
  • Blake McLimans: With Morgan and Horford manning the five spot, McLimans shouldn’t be seeing the floor barring extraordinary foul trouble. He had 0 points, 0 rebounds, and a turnover in less than a minute of playing time tonight.
  • Kainkitizen

    You’re right Dylan, Stu’s shot was just a little bit bigger tonight then his shot against UCLA at Madison Square Garden his freshman year. Thank you for refreshing the memory of the shot that made our eyes open up to Stu’s shooting as a freshman. What a great birthday gift for me tonight!!!!! Best one I got today!!!

    • UMQuasi

      I wasn’t able to catch the end of the game tonight, but I’m surprised to hear that Stu’s big shot may have been bigger than the one at MSG. I think that they may be hyperbole considering that’s number #3 on my list of 2009 tpurnament bid catalysts (Behind: #2: Manny’s “Fly Away” dunk v. Duke & #1: Sims’ backdoor dunk against UCLA).

      Good times…

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        In terms of season wide implications, maybe that one was bigger. But a three at the Breslin put Michigan up 5 with 20 seconds left? Uhm, big time.

        • lavell99

          Agreed Dylan. This shot was much bigger because it was a confident shot from an upperclassmen in a place we hadn’t even been competitive at in 13 years. If for nothing else, it was huge for in-state recruiting.

  • grandchamp

    You can watch the replay of the game on for anybody that doesn’t know. Weeeeeeeee what a night!!

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Here’s another stat for you guys. Michigan outscored Michigan State by 12 points during the 6 minutes that Draymond Green was on the bench.

    • grandchamp

      I’m glad that he didn’t sit out the rest of the game when he tweaked his knee, could have been another excuse for them.

  • Brian W

    Would be nice if this helps with the in-state recruiting, like with all of those kids who say “I love Michigan, but…” when they compare U-M to MSU. When I write that, I think of Matt Costello who camped at Michigan multiple times and then picked Sparty. I realize it’s just one game, but maybe this helps with Gary Harris, Jordan Hare, Javontae Hawkins or some other recruit looking at Michigan. U-M is a very young team on the rise. It’s a great time to become a Wolverine… Sounds like a great recruiting pitch to me.

    At least Brundidge, Burke and Robinson can now brag at school today that their future team beat MSU and the cast from the movie “300” (sorry I hate when MSU plays those movie clips at Spartan Stadium).

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I know that Steve Haney was there. Not sure who else but I assume it was a pretty loaded group.

    • EJ

      Regarding Matt Costello and Michigan, I’ve known Matt since he was a 7th grader and coached him when he was in middle school. The biggest reason IMO why MSU got him early was because they recruited him very early in the process. Izzo was watching him at his very first big AAU tourney when Matt played with fellow MSU commit and AAU teammate, Kenny Kaminski. One more overriding factor is some kids like the idea of turning around a program, Darius Morris, other kids not so much. Matt wanted to fit into an already established program and work toward those goals not help in rebuilding a program. He really enjoyed Coach Belien and staff and Michigan was right up there for him. He has had nothing but good things to say about Michigan any time i’ve talked to him. Finally, it’s unfortunate we missed because he is having a monster year. Last 5 games averaging 27.8 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. Go Blue! Great win yesterday.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Yeah, I believe Costello and Kaminski are pretty good friends and, as you mentioned, played AAU ball together early on.

  • grandchamp

    This game was very similar to playing your little brother in anything, you let them come back and get their hopes up and then you put your foot down.

  • bryemye

    I think the defensive intensity is something we need to cultivate all year as hard as possible. In this game, we happened to hit the shots we were missing before. Those games will happen but when we shoot like this then we’re in with a shout against anyone. I was just so relieved to not see us SO systematically slow to rotate and on rotations today.

    If we can get to be an irritatingly effective defensive team in the half court it will take us very far not so much this year as the whole of next year, when we have even more athletes to put on the floor.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Torrent is up at

  • MAS

    Dylan I agree it was a foul on Morgan when he went over Greens back for a rebound but if the ref would have called that I think my remote would have ended up through the TV since MSU was climbing over UofM players back all game.

    • Kenny

      Exactly, how can they get away from wrapping around Smot’s neck.

  • Bleedin’Blue

    First off, I just wanted to say that this sight is amazing! I was just recently told about the site…much better than any of the pay sites, but I am sure the regulars are well aware of that. Second, what a W! My only concern is that we shot better from 3 than the FT line, but if we can shoot near 50% from 3 it mught not matter. THe comment about Smotz averaging 10 pts is so true…he provided very little, but has great skills. The game just looks a bit fast for him at this point. A Hoosier fan buddy of mine, commented that hte youth of UM is scary for the future and I think that is so true. The minutes they are palying this year will only make them that much better as soph…ie. D MO.
    On an unrelated topic, just received my tix for UM -vs- IU in the mail, are there any hotspots that I must visit while in town on the Feb 12th?
    One again, great work Dylan and crew!
    GO BLUE!

    • gpsimms

      Depends what you’re looking for. Grizzly peak has the best brewery in town, IMO, and the food is good, too.

      Jolly pumpkin on main has really good food, and I don’t like the beer as well because it’s all…different. Like beers with citrus twists, or pumpkin flavor, or coffee flavor. Grizzly peak has a stout, a pale, a red, etc. All your standards and all very good, but if you like more experimental type beer, you might prefer pumpkin.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        I have to agree wholeheartedly with both of these suggestions.

    • Also, if you’re there for lunch as well as dinner, Zingerman’s Deli is one of the most famous (and deservedly so) in the midwest. It almost goes without saying, but just an fyi.

      • TheYooper

        Zingerman’s is unbelievably good. There’s a reason the line is usually out the door!

  • wayman britt

    Morris had a good game. His threes were great. Sometimes though he makes me scream. His game has improved tremondously, but he still needs to work on the mental part. At times he trys to force it or di it all by himself.

    Hopefully he can watch more film and learn that at times being more patient will just elevate his game that much more.

    Huge win for the confidence of the team.

    • There were a couple of sequences late where Morris meandered deep into the paint and couldn’t find anyone to toss it back out to (and MSU got away with at least one foul on him THEN. But for the most part I admired his play (missed the first few minutes). I think we just expect too much of these kids sometimes; he’s a great player, and a sophomore, with a lot of great games ahead.

      I almost think it’s his tall-man, loping dribbling style that makes people crazy rather than any real errors he’s making? ? ?

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Michigan State has proven more than capable of completely eliminating Michigan’s best player in years past.

        For example, Manny Harris vs. MSU: 5-13, 1-10, 2-10, 4-14
        Daniel Horton: 6-12, 6-17, 5-15, 3-11, 5-17

        Morris’ performance was phenomenal and Michigan State was throwing everything at him defensively.

        • Beast1530

          MSU does not have that one lockdown defender that they can depend on like Chris Allen and Travis Walton. That probably hurt MSU more than anything IMO.

  • georgeesq.

    One unsung play by Stu was his close out on Appling when State was within two late. Appling missed that three, and, while we’ll never know, I think that Stu did bother his shot just a little.

    As far as calls go, Nix had Morgan in a headlock and got a jump ball call. Darius got called for a touch foul on Lucas 25 feet from the basket after a whole game of watching Green putting two hands on our guys repeatedly. There is no way that MSU can put this one on the refs.

  • gpsimms

    i LOVE the stupid grin on Novak’s face up in the photos….what a win

  • Great win, Maize and Blue gang. Your players stepped up big-time and took advantage of a vulnerable MSU team. Impressive all-around.

    But, as always, we will meet again. I haven’t accepted MSU@UM as loss for the Green just yet. Unless, of course, the entire MSU starting line-up comes down with the avian flu, caught while robbing a convenience store. I haven’t ruled that out for this season the way it’s been going since last summer.

    Again, enjoy it. Congrats.

  • lavell99

    I’ll tell you what, I will not be sad to see Kalin Lucas graduate. Good freaking riddance.

    • Conrad


  • KAB

    What a win!Something just is lacking with this MSU team though and they just look out of sync.I hope we can bring the same energy against Iowa and out at Value City Arena…There are alot of winnable games at the tail end of are schedule so lets get it together!Atleast Sparty has shut up for now….

  • Bleedin’Blue

    I am new to the site and posted earlier, but my comments have since been removed…any particular reason? Not a troll at all and was very positive. I am also heading to the UM-IU game and was curious if anyone had any suggestions about local eateries or pubs that I should be sure to visit. Thanks in advance!
    GO BLUE!

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Got caught in the spam filter somehow. There were a lot of comments last night, sorry man.

  • Bleedin’Blue

    Just realized my comments are awaiting moderation. Sorry for the second post.

  • michigan fan

    Could tell in the post-game view from the locker room how pleased Beilein was for the players. Total satisfaction for a great win!

  • MikeSal

    Like a lot of people have said all along, if you drive the lane the 3 will open up. When guys like darius and stu are able to get past their man they can open up shots for novak and the others. This win is so impressive forget that whole MSU is having a down year this is basketball…this is their “sport” supposedly. There will be many more games like this guys so remember the feeling. Our youth is scary and it will be so fun to watch these guys develop…just do what we do. Go BLUE!

    • Beast1530

      It sure helps that Michigan was hitting their 3 point shots early on and it really opens up the driving lane. Novak was on fire all game long.

  • billiam

    Please, please, please remember this feeling when we go through a losing streak guys!
    I love the enthusiasm, but remember it when we don’t do well too!

    /guy who hates the “after each losss” coach haters.

    • MikeSal

      agreed. beilein is the man to lead us in the future hopefully our play over the next two years will prove that extension wasn’t a mistake

  • Giddings

    Usually not a good sign when our starting center has only 1 rebound… but at least it was a big one (off of Appling’s missed 3 with a minute left).

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Yeah, and to his credit he was getting a body on MSU’s bigs given our DR% and the ability of our guards and wings to slash in and grab boards.

      • georgeesq.

        Beilein’s comment was that he wanted our bigs to keep their bigs from getting the rebounds even if our bigs did not come up with it. Our guards were cleaning up a lot of the loose balls off rebounds.

  • drae

    I can see a lil bit of J. Sheperd in Colton Christian… Hopefully they will continue to work with him because he could be a nice 7th man off the bench… He plays some really good D and has the Zack Novak “hustle bone”… I see him contributing more than Mc Limans… If he could master that 18 foot jumper that would be a nice boost…